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Free trade: Crisis or opportunity for Canadian wine?

The Story

The late 1980s are a turning point for the Canadian grape and wine industries. The looming threat of free trade has many in the industry fearing ruin. In 1987, Parliament has just accepted a GATT ruling that condemns Canadian restrictions on imported beer and wine. Many believe the Canadian market will be flooded by cheaper, better quality U.S. wine, forcing domestic vineyards out of business. Fred Langan of The Journal looks at what free trade will mean for Canadian vintners and grape growers. New trade agreements mean that Canadian wineries will soon be able to purchase grapes from other countries for less than half the price of comparable local fruit. Tariffs that had previously protected domestic wineries have been declared unfair and are slated for elimination. In an attempt to remain competitive by improving quality, the government is implementing pullout schemes. Incentives encourage Canadian grape growers to replace native grapes with European varieties and hybrids.

Medium: Television
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: Oct. 21, 1987
Guest(s): Tony Aspler, Harry McWatters, John Neufeld, Jeff Ward
Host: Barbara Frum, Paul Griffin
Reporter: Fred Langan
Duration: 6:38

Did You know?

• Prior to the Free Trade Agreement, Canadian wines were marked up approximately 1 per cent and imported wines were marked up as much as 66 per cent. While Canadians agreed with Europeans that this discrimination was unfair, grape growers and vintners wanted a gradual phase-out to allow time to adjust.

• Fears of a American assault on the Canadian wine industry abounded, as it would take the American wine giant Gallo only ten extra days of production, or an extra hour each day, to match the production of the entire Canadian wine industry. Thankfully, this did not happen.

• In 1948 the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was established by 23 countries in the belief that trade cooperation amongst nations would encourage peaceful relations. In 1995 the World Trade Organization replaced the GATT as the administrative body governing international trade.

• Under the GATT, free trade arrangements were permitted and defined as the elimination of duties and restrictive regulations between two or more territories.


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