Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for this opportunity to address the committee on the Canadian wine industry's perspectives on the new NAFTA agreement, also known as CUSMA.
The modernization or renegotiation of NAFTA was an unprecedented trade experience. Not only did Canada face a WTO challenge focused on U.S. wine access to B.C. grocery, but the U.S. wine industry also used this trade process to seek changes to almost every element of the original NAFTA, which could have been disastrous for the future of more than 700 wineries across Canada. As a nation, Canada is not only the world's fifth-largest wine importer by value and eighth by volume; it also ranks among the most attractive wine sales markets in the world.
With a growing wine culture across Canada, and a climate and soil in different parts of the country capable of producing world-class wines, the 2006 excise exemption that was established for 100% Canadian wines stimulated investment for more than 400 new wineries over the past decade. Further, it supported a significant demand for Canadian-grown grapes, which increased premium 100% Canadian wine production by 28 million litres per year. In 2018 this new and growing production contributed an additional $3.1 billion in annual economic impact to the Canadian economy, while supporting 37,000 jobs.
The NAFTA demands put forward by the U.S. wine industry were a David and Goliath scenario. With our future at stake, CVA maintained almost daily contact with the wine negotiating team at Global Affairs, providing every statistical detail and intelligence we could find while attending every round of negotiations to make sure our issues remained a top government priority. It was vital to get the record straight. By any metric, NAFTA has been a windfall for the U.S. wine industry, making it the number one wine importer to Canada, surpassing France and Italy, with import value increasing from $19 million in 1988 to $504 million in 2018.
As many of you will know, the changes implemented in the 1988 Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement were so significant that many did not think the Canadian wine industry would survive. To compete, we identified new grape varietals, replanted, invested in new technology and techniques, undertook viticultural research and created the VQA system. Today our premium wines represent a 10% market sales share across Canada, with a growing reputation in key markets around the world.
Given these significant changes that we have endured over the past 30 years, NAFTA has been less advantageous for our sector, with bottled wine export growth to the U.S. increasing by a mere $8.2 million, or 25,000 cases. Nonetheless, the U.S. remains a key export market, and we do see potential for growth. It's important to note that with imports owning 70% of the wine sales market in Canada, we continue to place the majority of our focus on growing wine sales at home. While we supported and welcomed free and fair trade with the U.S. and Mexico in the renegotiation, our key focus was to protect what was in the existing NAFTA while enhancing regulatory streamlining and modernization. This task was accomplished. CUSMA did not remove the benefits that were part of the original agreement dating back to 1988, and added the most comprehensive wine annex of any trade agreement negotiated anywhere in the world. We're happy with the wine-related text in CUSMA, and would support its ratification in lockstep with the United States and Mexico.
Having said this, it's important to remind all members of this committee that with CETA and CPTPP ratified and NAFTA renegotiated, 91% of wine imports into Canada now enter tariff-free. This is a major preoccupation for every wine producer in Canada, given that imports have captured roughly 75% of total wine sales growth in our country over the past decade. To take advantage of CUSMA, CETA, CPTPP and future trade agreements, we must support and protect the growth of Canadian wine sales both at home and abroad. For example, as of January 1, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency requires Canadian wineries to implement a prevention control plan to access a “certificate of free sale” to export our wines, a major and costly undertaking for small and medium-size wineries for a low-risk food product. The proposed amendments to the “Product of Canada” label claim will require 85% Canadian content, yet we accept the 75% threshold for “Product of U.S.A.” For more than a decade, Canada has permitted EU, U.S. and other World Wine Trade Group country wines to enter Canada using additives and processing aids not permitted for use by Canadian wineries. Canada must accept the scientific evidence from these countries to fast-track approval to ensure that Canadian wineries have access to the same wine-making tool kit.
Agri-food marketing program funding in Canada is restricted to export promotion, but cannot be used for domestic promotion, where Canadian wineries face our largest competition. Prohibition-era restrictions remain in seven of 10 provinces, and restrict direct-to-consumer wine delivery across provincial borders.
These issues must be addressed in the short term, to ensure we can take full advantage of CUSMA.
In addition, it's absolutely critical that the government focus immediately on resolving Australia's WTO challenge against Canadian wine measures. With the WTO dispute settlement panel well under way, a negative outcome would risk not only the benefits negotiated under CUSMA, but also place at risk 700 wineries from coast to coast, threatening jobs and investment in the future of Canada's highest value-added agricultural industry.
Numerous times the Australian government has publicly stated that it's open to finding a non-WTO resolution with Canada. The Australian wine industry has informed me that a resolution is possible, if Canada offers to remove the legislated annual inflation indexation of the wine excise duty implemented in budget 2017.
The Australian government has also alluded to its disappointment with legislated indexation in its recent WTO submission. What is clear is that the offer to repeal would likely end the WTO challenge. This would not stop the federal government from making future adjustments to the excise duty. It would simply return any decision on future excise duty increases to a vote in Parliament, as part of the budget implementation act process.
In conclusion, we fully support the passage of Bill C-100 and the ratification of CUSMA. However, if the Government of Canada does not offer to repeal the legislated annual excise duty indexation as part of a non-WTO negotiated settlement, we fear that the Canadian wine industry will lose not only the benefits we earned in CUSMA, but additional federal and provincial measures, which would place thousands of jobs, and hundreds of wineries, in every region of this country, at risk.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.