Australia files WTO complaint over Canada's 'discriminatory' sale of overseas wine

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Australia has complained at the World Trade Organization about Canada's rules on wine sales, expanding a similar USA complaint against one Canadian region.

"I want to make sure we're on the front foot about protecting Australia's interests".

It follows on from representations from local winemakers who are aggrieved at what is described as "protectionist" measures.

A statement on Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Steven Ciobo's website said: "Australia has 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 Canadian grocery stores, inconsistent with Canada's WTO obligations".

Speaking to ABC Radio earlier today Ciobo said that this was not related to the Canadian Prime Minister's snub of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations at the APEC Summit in Vietnam previous year.

"These are unrelated events", he said.

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In its formal objection, filed with the World Trade Organization (WTO), claimed that Canadian laws had unfairly disadvantaged worldwide wine producers, and follows a similar complaint made by United States manufacturers back in October 2017.

"These measures are impacting on Australia's ability to better access this market".

The trade dispute came a day before Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, with the survival of the TPP one of the key items on their agenda. In recent years, the liquor boards have introduced a number of measures that discriminate in favour of locally produced wine.

"The WTO provides a rules-based system that is vital to ensuring countries around the world ensure their regulations are fair and non-discriminatory". Formal talks with the Canadian Government were requested by Australian authorities yesterday.

Canberra said the measures by several provinces hurt trade with Australia's fourth-largest export market for wine, valued at A$185 million (US$147.3 million).

But the wine industry is hoping the WTO dispute will bolster their cause in trying to gain market access to Canada.

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