The Canadian Government is trying to give its fledgling wine industry a boost with several measures aimed at steering consumers towards home-grown wines.
The Australian wine industry, and the Australian Government, are complaining and taking the Canadians to the World Trade Organisation stomping their feet and arguing "discrimination".
The Winemakers’ Federation of Australia (WFA) has welcomed an announcement from Steven Ciobo, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, that Australia is to continue its protests against “protectionist” measures that threaten the lucrative export market.
In view of the fact that hardly any Canadian wine is sold in Australia, but Australian wine sales to Canada are valued at almost $200 million, this would seem, to me anyway, an argument Australia cannot win.
|Leading Canadian wine producer Norm Hardie|
Ciobo said the Australian wine industry was a “big export earner” and “job creator” and added: “I want to make sure we stand up for our producers and not allow other countries to discriminate against us, costing us export income and potentially jobs.
"Australia has requested formal WTO consultations on measures discriminating against Australian wine imports that we consider to be clearly inconsistent with Canada’s WTO commitments."
Canada’s "inconsistent" measures include extra taxes, fees and mark-ups on imported wine, separate distribution channels reserved for Canadian wine and restricting sale of imported wine in grocery stores to a ‘store within a store’.”
Tony Battaglene, the WFA chief executive said in a statement: "Canada is an extremely important market for Australian wine, our fourth largest by volume and value ($187 million). We need to ensure a level trading environment to allow competition for all wine producers.
"The Australian wine industry does not oppose a helping hand for the Canadian wine producers. We believe they add diversity and colour to the global wine sector. However, such help should not discriminate against sales of imported Australian wine. The Canadian consumer deserves a better deal than that.”
The three largest wine-producing regions in Canada are the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario, and Essex County, Ontario.
Canadian wines currently have a less than 50% share of the Canadian wine market, making Canada one of the few wine-producing countries where domestically produced wines do not hold a dominant share.
So, I'm sorry, the WFA argument just doesn't wash with me. And I suspect it won't wash with a lot of Canadian consumers either. It could well spark a backlash against Australian wines instead.