Lost in the language: BC wineries
may suffer with trade deal

It’s another beverage that’s garnering all the attention in the aftermath of an 11th-hour North American free trade deal, but language included in the pact could spell trouble for BC’s wine industry — especially small operations.

Observers fear wine producers will soon be joining their dairy cousins in crying foul with a pair of side letters attached to the so-called US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) agreed to by Canada Sunday.

In the letters, trade representatives from Canada and the United States agree to end the BC practice of limiting supermarket shelves to wine offerings from within the province.

“Specifically, BC shall eliminate the measures which allow only BC wine to be sold on regular grocery store shelves while imported wine may be sold in grocery stores only through a so-called ‘store within a store,’ and such contested measures shall not be replicated,” reads the letter from Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer.

Correspondence from Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, confirms the concession, noting it will take effect “no later than November 1, 2019.”

Critics say the new language might push smaller operations from the shelves to make room for US offerings.

“These grocery store sales were very important to local wineries — particularly small operations — but this may be in jeopardy if sales of wines from huge US companies are allowed alongside Canadian wines,” reported South Okanagan – West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings Tuesday morning.

“Canadian negotiators caved to American demands to allow American wine in what are now Canadian-only wine aisles in supermarkets.”

Miles Prodan, the CEO of the B.C. Wine Institute — in an interview with CBC’s BCToday host Michelle Eliot — said the jury’s still out on what the greater access for non-B.C. wines will actually look like in stores.

“Does that look like some part of the shelf space? How much? We’ve got 13 months to figure out what that really looks like,” he said.

Grocers in Osoyoos do not provide shelf space for locally produced wines.

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