U.S. aiming to bring up wine dispute at NAFTA talks
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has an issue with getting agricultural products to Canada, and it might not be the ones you think.
Much of the spotlight on CanadaU.S. trade leading up to the new North American free trade talks has been on dairy products.
This time, though, Lighthizer was not talking about cheese, but what you pair it with: wine.
Two days before President Donald Trump entered the White House, the U.S. launched an aggressive trade challenge by asking the World Trade Organization to examine how the B.C. government was allowing only wine produced within the province to be sold in grocery stores.
Lighthizer told the committee in June that WTO consultations — the first stage of the process — had not resolved things, so the administration was thinking about whether to press ahead with a dispute settlement panel in Geneva. Then he mentioned another, perhaps friendlier, way to go: the new NAFTA.
A month later, Lighthizer published the list of goals the Trump administration has for a renegotiated trade deal with Canada and Mexico, in advance of the first round of talks on Aug. 16. Canadian wine got a mention.
The move to allow only B.C. wines to be sold in B.C. grocery stores, which the United States argues is discriminatory, is not the only issue the Trump administration has with the way Canada imports and sells wine.
The U.S. government’s annual report on trade barriers highlights a complaint that would be shared by many Canadian consumers who have long chafed at limited access.
The report said the U.S. government is reviewing the situation in Ontario, where about 70 grocery stores are now allowed to sell both domestic and imported wine.
The Canadian Vintners Association, meanwhile, is treading carefully when it comes to NAFTA.
Asha Hingorani, director of government and public affairs, said the organization is keeping details of its position secret until talks begin, but said the complaints coming from the U.S., which has a $450-million wine trade surplus with Canada, should be put into perspective.