The U.S. is challenging the province’s decision to allow BC wine only on grocery store shelves.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) action is in response to provincial regulations set in 2015 that allow B.C. grocery stores to sell VQA wine on grocery store shelves.
The 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.
The trade action follows on the heels of a California Wine Institute complaint to the USTR on Oct. 27 that called B.C.’s wine regulations “blatantly discriminatory.”
However, according to the B.C. government, the B.C. wine on shelves model will never see more than 60 partners. The liquor licences that are in these grocery stores are the same VQA licences that have existed in B.C. for years.
“The discriminatory regulations implemented by British Columbia intentionally undermine free and fair competition, and appear to breach Canada’s commitments as a World Trade Organization member,” said U.S. ambassador Michael Froman.
Restricting the sale of international wines to the store-within-a-store outlets only is discriminatory, the USTR said.
“In British Columbia the local wines get an unfair advantage because they can be sold on grocery store shelves, while U.S. wines cannot. The United States simply seeks equal opportunities to market our wines, consistent with Canada’s international obligations,” said Acting Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse.