Trump management pins goal on B.C. wine gross sales


The Trump administration has pinned a target on B.C.’s wine regulations, promising to escalate the ongoing trade dispute at the World Trade Organization.

On Friday the administration issued notice it has requested that the WTO establish a dispute settlement panel to examine the “unfair regulations governing the sale of wine in grocery stores in the Canadian province of British Columbia.”

“Discriminatory regulations implemented by British Columbia are unfairly keeping U.S. wine off of grocery store shelves, and that is unacceptable,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement on Friday.

In 2015, B.C. began to allow the sale of some local wines in licensed grocery stores. (CBC)

“Canada and all Canadian provinces, including B.C., must play by the rules,” Lighthizer said.

Escalating the dispute

The request for the WTO to establish a panel is just the latest step in the ongoing U.S. attempts to overturn the regulation, which was brought in by the Christy Clark government in 2015.

The previous Obama administration also filed two WTO complaints, which were supported by the European Union, Australia and New Zealand. Requesting the establishment of a panel is the next step in the WTO dispute settlement process, say U.S. officials.

B.C. wines are the only ones that can be sold on grocery store shelves. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

B.C. premier fires back

B.C. Premier John Horgan responded Friday morning to the U.S. move, saying it is just one of many trade disputes the federal government is discussing with the U.S.

“My view is the Trump administration seems to be lashing out in every direction on every issue, whether it’s softwood, whether it’s pulp and paper. Now it’s wine. It was aluminum, steel, autos. There doesn’t seem to be a sector where Mr. Trump doesn’t feel that he’s aggrieved,” said Horgan.

B.C. Premier John Horgan says the U.S. attack on B.C. wine regulations is just one more trade dispute launched by the Trump administration. (Mael Thebault/CBC)

The B.C. regulations provide two options for grocery stores to sell wine. Under the “wine on shelf” option, only B.C. wine may be sold on grocery store shelves.

Under the the second “store within a store” option, imported and domestic wine can be sold in separated wine stores inside grocery stores.

In 2017, U.S. wine exports to B.C. totalled $56 million, and U.S. wine had a 10 per cent share of the B.C. market, according to U.S. officials.


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