Interesting political moves in the U.S. may end up having a beneficial effect for Canadian wine consumers and, perhaps, a broader effect that is harder to quantify on the Canadian wine industry. This story in the San Jose Mercury News indicates that there is currently a coalition of U.S. wine producing states that are lobbying Canada to eliminate its excessive border charges on Canadians bringing back wine from the U.S. As most wine enthusiasts know, the charges at the border verge on the ridiculous. In BC, anyone exceeding their miserly duty free allowance of 2 bottles generally has to pay an extra 100% tax and markup in order to bring any additional bottles back. Most Canadian wine lovers hate this system, as do U.S. wineries who lose a lot of potential sales due to the markups. The U.S. effort is described in more detail in this press release from New York Senator Charles Schumer who is lobbying on behalf of the NY wine industry.
This effort could have broader implications for the BC (and Ontario) wine industries. Currently, wine purchased directly from BC wineries escapes all BCLDB markup while wine purchased by a BC wine consumer directly from a Washington (or Oregon or California) winery is subject to full markup at the border. The differential treatment creates serious trade agreement problems which should have been addressed years ago. Unfortunately, the economic consequences of bringing BC and Canadian policies into compliance could be far-reaching and, frankly, I am very concerned about the effects on the BC industry. For consumers though, this is likely to be good news … the large numbers of BC consumers who are sourcing their wine through Alberta (which has sensible border markups) would finally be able to stop doing so.
UPDATE (Feb 17 2010): This issue has now been covered by the trade publication, Wines & Vines: Canada\’s Wine Duties Hinder Trade. You may also wish to review this related analysis: BC Wine & Trade Agreement Trouble.