Wine at the WTO

Since becoming the U.S. government’s chief trade lawyer, Robert Lighthizer has made his mark on Canadians by initiating re-negotiation of NAFTA. 

Well,  Lighthizer is now putting his stamp on an on-going American complaint against Canada at the WTO.

Generally speaking, the ‘dispute’ — dispute in brackets because the proceedings are still technically at the consultation stage — relates to the sale of wine in British Columbia. As you know, here in Canuckistan, the provinces enjoy a god-given monopoly over the sale of wine, spirits, and beer. Each province can, however, in its infinite magnanimity decide to open some or even (gasp!) all of the market to private sector competitors. Most of the provinces do not like to share, but in BC — perhaps due to the ocean air? — the government decided several years ago that it could open a small part of the market for the sale of wine to grocery stores. (Just imagine, getting your meat, potatoes, and booze all in the same place — sacrilegious!) It turns out, however, that only wine from British Columbia can be sold in the liberated grocery stores of Kitsilano and West Point Grey. If you want to enjoy a California red with your meat and potatoes, well you will just have to go somewhere else. The Obama administration had already lodged a very similar complaint before departing the scene and major wine exporters like Argentina, New Zealand and Europe joined the consultations, which had gone dormant). Now, Lighthizer is submitting his own version of the complaint and things will start all over again.