B.C. wine producers have leaped to the defence of the provincial government in a looming trade dispute with California's Wine Institute.
In a news release issued today, B.C. Wine Institute chair Josie Tyabji claimed that the province "has done its due diligence in working to meet consumer requests during [B.C. Liberal MLA] John Yap's Liquor Policy Review".
"California's wine industry representatives are misinformed if they believe B.C. is working outside trade regulations," Tyabji stated.
Tyabji's comments came after Tom LaFaille, vice president and international-trade counsel with California's Wine Institute, told the Straight that his group has been in "close contact with the Obama administration" about three liquor reforms announced on December 19.
The California group, which represents 1,000 wineries and businesses, wrote a letter to the premier objecting to the B.C. government's plan to allow a limited number of licences to sell only B.C. wine in grocery stores. It also complained about letting VQA and independent wine store licences be transferred to grocery stores less than a kilometre from other public or private liquor stores.
In addition, the California group opposes allowing grocery stores to sell 100-percent-B.C. wine on designated shelves starting April 1.
California's Wine Institute has called for these policies to be amended or scrapped, alleging they violate international trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The B.C. Wine Institute, however, said that B.C. VQA licences (which allow for the exclusive sale of B.C. wine) were "grandfathered into trade agreements".
Meanwhile, the organization's CEO, Miles Prodan, said in the news release that similar trade concerns were expressed about allowing B.C. liquor to be sold at farmers markets.
"I'm not convinced increased consumer convenience for B.C. wine in grocery stores is as much a trade agreement issue as it is about others wanting to protect their market share," Prodan stated.