AUSTRALIA has initiated formal World Trade Organization dispute settlement action against Canada, saying the country has taken discriminatory measures affecting Australian wine.
Trade minister Steven Ciobo said Australia had taken the first step in commencing formal consultations with Canada regarding measures Australia believes impose arbitrary and disadvantageous restrictions on the sale of imported wine in grocery stores in the provinces of British Columbia (BC), Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.
“This step responds to concerns from the Australian wine industry regarding the Canadian measures, which negatively impact trade with Australia’s fourth largest export market for wine, currently valued at $185m,” he said.
“While it would have been preferable to resolve this issue bilaterally, it is appropriate to commence dispute proceedings given the lack of progress.”
The text of Australia’s request for consultations explains that in BC, provincial rules allow “only BC wine to be sold on regular grocery store shelves while imported wine may be sold in grocery stores only through a so-called ‘store within a store’.”
The text also points out that there is a different distribution system for imported wine and another system for BC wine.
In Ontario, the provincial rules “appear to operate so as to favour products of Canadian origin and potentially exclude or limit imported products from being displayed and sold”.
In Quebec, Australia says small-scale Quebecois wine producers are provided with “direct access” to grocery and convenience stores and streamlines access in favour of Canadian wine.
In Nova Scotia, the rules “provide reduced product mark-up for local producers and preferences through supplier competitions and price bands”.
If the dispute isn’t settled in 60 days, Australia can request adjudication by a WTO panel.