AUSTRALIA is seeking global vine intervention after accusing Canada of keeping Australian wine off its supermarket shelves.
The federal government has filed a formal complaint with the World Trade Organisation in protest at the way Canada applies rules over the sale of Australian wine.
Australian winemakers complained about what they describe as “protectionist” measures.
Imported wines in Canada sold in supermarkets are meant to be pushed into a “store within a store” with separate shelves and cash registers, while Canadian wines can be kept on regular grocery store shelves.
Australia says so far no Canadian supermarkets have set up a “store with a store” because of the onerous requirements, meaning its wines don’t get a look in.
Trade Minister Steve Ciobo says Australia’s $200 million share in the Canadian market is eroding.
“Potentially this could cost Australian jobs,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.
“I want to make sure we’re on the front foot about protecting Australia’s interests.”
Mr Ciobo denied the action was connected to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s snub of other world leaders during talks on a new Trans-Pacific Partnership deal at APEC last November.
“These are unrelated events,” he said.
The Canadian government says it works closely with all of its provinces and territories to ensure liquor distribution and sales policies are consistent with its international trade commitments.
A spokesman for Canada’s international trade minister says it will also give “careful consideration” to consultation requests from any WTO member.
Under WTO rules, Canada has 60 days to settle the dispute with Australia. After that, Australia could ask the WTO to adjudicate, with a view to forcing Canada to change its laws or risk trade sanctions.
The Winemakers’ Federation of Australia welcomed the government’s action against Canada.
“In recent years, the liquor boards have introduced a number of measures that discriminate in favour of locally produced wine,” the federation’s chief executive Tony Battaglene said.
“We respect the Canadian wine industry, but we are seeking a level playing field to ensure we can maximise our opportunities in this key market.”
As well as the “store within a store” rules, there are also extra mark-ups on imported wine and separate distribution channels.