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B.C. wine and dairy industries worried about future under USMCA

Last Updated Oct 1, 2018 at 6:15 pm PST

Milk is pictured at a grocery store in North Vancouver, B.C., Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. Canadian dairy farmers are panning the renegotiated trade pact between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, saying the deal will undercut the industry by limiting exports and opening up the market to more American products. THE CANADIAN PRESS Jonathan Hayward

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — British Columbia’s wine and dairy industries received the news of the new trade deal with the U.S. and Mexico with much chagrin.

Both industries will see the domestic market reduced. American dairy products will see less duties when accessing the Canadian market, while B.C. wines will have to share grocery store shelf space with U.S. companies.

Dave Taylor, chairman of board of B.C. Dairy Association, says there is a lot of frustration and anger the Canadian government did not heed the industry’s wishes and he says his industry will lose an additional 3.6 per cent of the domestic market to the U.S.

“The fact that they are compromising it again — and it’s happened multiple times — and we’ve had very strong messages to them, saying that if they believe in supply management, if they believe that the dairy industry should be a strong and dynamic one, then we can have no more concessions on dairy,” Taylor says.

He argues that in addition to recent trade agreements with Pacific Rim countries and the European Union, reduced access actually amounts closer to 10 per cent.

“Most businesses that I am aware of, if 10 per cent of their market is taken away, they’re in serious trouble,” he adds.

Miles Prodan, the president and CEO of the BC Wine Institute, admits he’s worried about U.S. products being sold in grocery stores on this side of the border.

“Clearly, we prefer not to. The status quo makes total sense to us, but if part of this agreement is to open that up, then we need to have that discussion. We think the Americans have got lots of access to the BC market and do quite well thank you very much,” Prodan says.

He adds American wines already have enough access in this province, so there’s no need for them to be sold in local grocery stores.

“We’ve been fighting NAFTA since day one. We need to sit down and clearly understand what it is they’re trying to achieve and how we can continue to support and protect our wine industry that’s critically important not only to B.C. but all of Canada.”

Prodan says this gives the federal government even more incentive to let BC wineries have stronger access to other provinces, so they can sell their products directly to people across the country.

Since former Premier Christy Clark announced only B.C. wines could be sold in grocery stores, Washington State wine makers have been complaining about being shut out. Under the new trade deal, this is no longer allowed.

— with files from Lasia Kretzel