US files WTO trade complaint against Canada over wine exports

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Washington (AFP)

The United States on Friday filed a trade complaint against Canada over unfair regulations Washington says impede the sale of American wine in one of the northern neighbor's provinces.

Adding another item to the growing list of US trade disputes, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the US filed a case with the World Trade Organization after discussions last year failed to resolve the dispute.

He cited the "discriminatory" and "unacceptable" regulations in British Columbia, in western Canada, that exclude all imported wine from grocery store shelves, only allowing it to be sold in a separate "store within a store" structure.

"Canada is an important market for US winemakers," Lighthizer said in a statement. "The practice of discriminating against US wine is unfair and cannot be tolerated any longer."

The two countries have exchanged a host of trade complaints over lumber, paper, aircraft and US anti-dumping duties, in addition to being locked in fraught negotiations with Mexico to renew the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"The Trump Administration will continue to hold our trading partners accountable by vigorously enforcing US rights under our trade agreements and by promoting fair and reciprocal trade through all available tools, including the WTO."

However, US President Donald Trump and trade officials have frequently railed against the WTO, saying it was unfair to the United States, and he has blocked the naming of new members to the appellate body of the WTO dispute settlement process.

In 2017, US wine exports to the Canadian province totaled $56 million and US wine had a 10 percent share of the market. But the April 2015 rule change limits choices and raises costs for Canadian consumers, USTR said.