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U.S. challenges wine sales in B.C., seeks shelf space for American producers

American government says the decision to allow only B.C.

The sale of B.C. wines in some of the province's grocery stores is being challenged by the United States government as a breach of Canada's commitments to the World Trade Organization.

The American government says the decision to allow only B.C. wines to be sold in grocery stores is damaging to U.S. wine makers.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman says the province's regulations provide a substantial competitive advantage for B.C. wines.

"American winemakers produce some of the highest-quality, most popular wines in the world. When U.S. wine producers have a fair shot at competing on a level playing field, they can compete and win in markets around the globe,'' Froman said in a news release.

"This administration is continuing to fight to level the playing field for American producers and workers, so that we can continue to grow our economy and support quality jobs across the United States.''

The U.S. has sent a letter to the Canadian government asking for consultations as a first step in trying to resolve the dispute.

If that fails, the U.S. says it may request that the WTO establish a dispute settlement panel.

B.C. amended legislation in April 2015 to allow wine sales in grocery stories and held an auction for licences about a year later.

The news release from the executive office of U.S. President Barack Obama says the regulations implemented by B.C. intentionally undermine free and fair competition.

"Canada and all Canadian provinces must play by the rules,'' Froman said.

Acting Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse says in B.C., local wines get an unfair advantage because they can be sold on grocery store shelves, while U.S. wines cannot.

"The United States simply seeks equal opportunities to market our wines, consistent with Canada's international obligations.''

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