The World Trade Organization (WTO) has stepped in to settle a dispute between Canada and Australia over "discriminatory measures" that affected Australian wine producers.
A complaint was first raised by the Australian government in 2018 and WTO officials have now helped to smooth relations between the countries that will mean outstanding issues can be rectified.
The dispute arose over Canada's laws and regulations that meant discrimination in favor of locally-produced Canadian wine that disadvantaged imports. Issues ranged from higher taxes on imported wine to selling it from different sections within stores.
The complaint originally related to four provinces: British Columbia, Québec, Ontario and Nova Scotia, but as of 2021 only Québec had continued these practices following changes to some local laws.
Chief executive at Australian Grape & Wine Tony Battaglene commented that this resolution provides the "last piece in the puzzle" to bring about a more harmonious trade relationship between the two countries moving forward.
"The Canadian wine export market is extremely important for Australian wine and it is vital that we work to harmonize trade as much as possible. The market is Australia’s fourth-largest wine export market, valued at more than $190 million in 2020, and it’s certainly a market in which we are pursuing further growth," he said.
"But we need to be able to compete on a level playing field, and this is why it’s so important to have an independent umpire in the WTO. In this case, the rules-based system provided the opportunity for bilateral dialogue and led to a result which was fair to both Australian producers and their colleagues in Canada."
The decision has been hailed as a victory for free trade and means all wine producers can now operate on a level playing field, giving full access to the Canadian market for Australian producers.