Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick is defending B.C.’s grocery store wine policy in the wake of a U.S. trade challenge.
The American government, as predicted by wine industry groups in the province, is challenging the sale of B.C.-only wines in grocery stores as a breach of Canada’s commitments to the World Trade Organization.
They claim it’s damaging American winemakers.
Letnick, MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country, disagrees.
He says the policy works in conjunction with NAFTA, which allows for about 60 licences for the sale of B.C.-only wines.
“Those were held and used by the B.C. Wine Institute and the government of B.C.,” said Letnick.
“Since then, we have seen some of the licences held by the B.C. Wine Institute transferred over to grocery stores. (It’s) still the same licence, just a transfer.”
Letnick said it works out to about 60 wine-on-shelf licences out of the more than 1,100 stores that sell all types of wines and other liquor products.
He adds, over the past four years, the sale of American wines has increased by about 35 per cent.
“I think it’s going to be really hard for them to claim damages when there has been such a great growth here in British Columbia through more than 1,100 stores.”
Letnick says the province will fight diligently to articulate the government’s position.
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