Govt acts to ‘level playing field’

Headshot of Sarah Ison
Sarah IsonBusselton Dunsborough Times

Wineries have welcomed the launch of formal action by the Federal Government and the World Trade Organisation against Canada, hoping it will help combat anticompetitive import measures and encourage more South West wineries to export to the Canadian market.

In 2017, Margaret River’s wine exports to Canada were valued at $1.9 million, representing almost 6 per cent of the region’s export value, according to the Margaret River Wine Association.

But Flametree Wines export sales and marketing manager Liz Mencel told the Times local wineries struggled with the tight bureaucracy and protectionist measures enforced by Canadian liquor control boards, which gave favour to domestic producers over Australian imports by firmly tendering and controlling industry. “It’s always been a unique situation, with most Canadian provinces having some measure of Government control (on domestic and imported wine),” she said.

“A big problem has been that it’s a very complex system to work with and involves loads of red tape and paperwork.”

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


Watershed Wines owner and managing director Geoff Barret said exporting to Canada required a “convoluted process” of submitting wines to the managing authority, rather than just procuring an interested import partner. “Canada has an antiquated socialist policy where a quasi-government authority will define what Canadians will and will not drink,” he said.

While the measures presented challenges larger wineries, small producers were deterred from even trying to export to Canada, Ms Mencel said.

“It eliminates small producers with fantastic wines,” she said.

The MRWA welcomed initiatives that reduced discrimination and trade barriers against local exports and hoped the dispute settlement action launched by Australia and the WTO would “level the playing field”. However, concerns over the disruption of the existing trade relationship with Canada were raised and Mr Barret warned against “jeopardising” the existing situation for those already trading with the country.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails