WTO COMPLAINT AGAINST CANADA

New Zealand has joined with Australia as part of a World Trade Organisation complaint against Canada over “arbitrary and disadvantageous” treatment of imported wines. In a statement, Australian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said that he launched proceedings after bilateral talks between the countries broke down – especially after the Canadians walked out of the revised TPPA talks at Apec in 2017.

Australia is claiming that a range of distribution and sales measures are being applied in Canada at both a provincial and federal level appearing to discriminate against imported wine. This is in violation of the WTO’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (1994).

“In this case we’ve got a number of provinces in Canada that are putting in place pro-protectionist policies,” Ciobo told ABC. “I’m not going to stand by and see Aussie exporters jeopardised.”

Such measures are obvious in the province of British Columbia, where only wine from the province itself can be sold on supermarket stores. Imported wines can only be sold “through a so-called ‘store within a store’”.

Canada is New Zealand’s fourth-largest international wine market behind the US, UK and Australia. It received NZD$107 million of exports in 2017. ExportNZ executive director Catherine Beard said that New Zealand exporters would encounter the same problems as Australian exporters, so it was worth supporting the move.

“Our industry’s doing incredibly well, especially into the United States, and Canada’s obviously a close neighbour so it would be fantastic to have more of an equal opportunity into that market,” she said.

The latest WTO complaint comes months after the US filed a second complaint with the body, also regarding measures in British Columbia governing the sale of wine in grocery stores.