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B.C. can't ban U.S. wines from grocery stores under new trade deal
The days of giving B.C. wine exclusive space on grocery store shelves appear to be numbered.
The trilateral trade deal struck by Canada, the U.S. and Mexico over the weekend requires that B.C. scrap its law banning international wines from eligible grocery stores by November 2019.
"In recognition of the shared commitment of the United States and Canada to resolve this ongoing trade concern, Canada shall ensure that BC … eliminate the measures which allow only BC wine to be sold on regular grocery store shelves," reads a letter attached to the NAFTA replacement, which was made public late Sunday.
In exchange, the U.S. agrees to drop the World Trade Organization disputes it filed over the law, which has drawn criticism from both the Obama and Trump administrations since it was introduced by the previous BC Liberal government in 2015.
Earlier this year, U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer blasted the ban as "discriminatory" and "unacceptable."
International wines were already allowed inside grocery stores that use B.C.'s store-within-a-store model, which uses separate check-outs for liquor sales and food sales.
It's unclear how much of an impact the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement deal, which has yet to be ratified, would have on local wine producers.
The BC Wine Institute said only 28 grocery stores currently stock wine using the alternative wine-on-shelf model, which allows shoppers to buy food and wine at the same till, and that those account for less than one per cent of overall sales in the province.