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U.S. challenges B.C. grocery store wine sales

Softwood lumber isn’t the only contentious trade issue brewing across the 49th Parallel.

On Tuesday the U.S. launched new trade-enforcement action against Canada at the World Trade Organization, challenging the province’s decision to permit only B.C. wine to be sold in grocery stores. The provincial government opened up sales in grocery stores last year.

The provincial regulations breaches Canada’s WTO commitments and hurts U.S. wine producers, according to the U.S. government.

Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour, disagrees and says the province will defend its new regulation.

“We support the growth of the industry, and we will defend it against this challenge,” she said in a statement Tuesday. “The B.C. government is confident that we are complying with B.C.’s and Canada’s international trade obligations.

“We will continue to work closely with Global Affairs Canada (GAC) to ensure that B.C.’s liquor policies fall within these trade obligations, and we will continue to work with GAC through the upcoming consultation process.”

Bond added that in B.C., the number of liquor stores selling imported alcohol has increased significantly since 1987 from 344 to approximately 1,100 today (1,106 for all imports plus 11 stores selling imported wine). She added 100 per cent B.C. wine sales represent approximately 17 per cent of all provincial wine sales .

“Trade agreements such as NAFTA allow for a number of private wine outlets that sell only B.C. wine, and we are confident in the approach we have taken.”

The Save-on store in Spruceland is the only local grocery store selling wine.

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