A dozen grocery stores around B.C. will have a VQA-only wine licence.

B.C. wine in grocery stores target of U.S. trade complaint

Californian vintners argue exclusive access for B.C. VQA wines is 'discriminatory.'

American wine makers want to overturn the province’s decision to let select grocery stores exclusively sell B.C. VQA wine, arguing shoppers should be able to buy international wines as well in those outlets.

If successful, the challenge under international trade agreements could transform or even put a cork in the centrepiece of the B.C. government’s liquor policy reforms.

The California Wine Institute submitted its complaints to the Office of the United States Trade Representative in an Oct. 27 letter stating that the regulations were “blatantly discriminatory.”

The B.C. government announced in 2014 that as of April 1, 2015, grocery stores would be able to apply for a permit to sell B.C. wine on their shelves under one of two different models.

A VQA-only licence allows stores to bypass the rule they be at least one kilometre from liquor stores, as well as avoiding the ‘store within a store’ model set out for non-B.C. wine.

California Wine Institute vice-president and international trade counsel Tom Lafaille said the organization has opposed the regulations since their implementation.

“We were assured by the B.C. government and industry that imported wines would still be able to be sold in B.C. grocery stores,” Lafaille said, adding that this two-part model doesn’t satisfy that promise.

“We’re working with industry and governments… this is an international effort to free up grocery store shelves for non-B.C. wine.”

The VQA-only permit goes against Canada’s international trade commitments, said Lafaille. The submission to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative noted that the U.S. and Argentina, Australia, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand and the United Nations filed formal objections with the B.C. government challenging the new system on April 29, 2016.

While the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement has been called into question by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to renegotiate or rip it up, U.S. wine lobbyists aren’t relying solely on NAFTA.

The letter stated that as new regulations appear to favour B.C. wine over imported wine, the nations question “whether they are consistent with Canada’s commitments as a member of the World Trade Organization – specifically the national treatment obligations under Article III:4 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994.”

But the province disagrees.

“To our knowledge, no regulatory tariff action has taken place and no trade injunctions has been filed,” said Ministry of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction communications director Bill Anderson.

“The B.C. wine on shelves mode will never see more than 60 partners and the liquor licences that are in these grocery stores are the same VQA licences that have existed in B.C. for years.”

Currently, Anderson added that only 12 grocery stores – six per cent of the total amount in B.C. – will have VQA-only licences, including one in South Surrey.

 

 

@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Clinton and District Community Forest passes audit

According to a news release from Forest Practices Board on Feb. 19,… Continue reading

Research casts ‘last stop sign on Trans-Canada’ claim into doubt

Sign was removed from junction of Highways 1 and 97 in Cache Creek in February 1984

Savona athletes head to BC Winter Games

Akira Susanj and Alexander Teague competing in karate events

Ashcroft councillor wants to revisit Village’s burning bylaw

Raven Nyman’s regular report on Ashcroft council

Cache Creek unsuccessful in bid for Quartz Road bridge funding

Highlights from the most recent meeting of Cache Creek council

VIDEO: Behind the scenes of turning newspapers into digital archives

Kelowna Capital News donated materials dating from 1980 to 2000

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Eyes on police after Trudeau orders blockades torn down, injunctions enforced

The RCMP in B.C. have sent a letter to the traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation

B.C. massage therapist suspended following allegations of sexual misconduct

While suspended, Leonard Krekic is not entitled to practice as an RMT in B.C.

Cheapest in B.C.: Penticton gas prices dip below $1 per litre

Two stores in Penticton have gas below a dollar.

Loans or gifts? Judge rules woman must pay B.C. man back $7K

B.C. judge rules that woman must pay back more than $7,000 in advanced funds to man

VIDEO: Outpouring of worldwide support for bullied Australian boy

Australian actor Hugh Jackman said ‘you are stronger than you know, mate’

Most Read