International Issues & Activities - September 2018
The issues concerning increased paperwork and border delays for shipments of wine and other products to China has now settled down. It is clear that the delays caused were a combination of the new bureaucratic structure in China and an instruction from the Chinese Government to retaliate against Australian exporters as a result of deteriorating relations between our respective governments. We understand that the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister are now seeking to visit China before the end of 2018 to rebuild our relationship.
The China International Import Exhibition is to be held in Shanghai from 5-10 November. It is part of Xi Jin Ping’s belt and road initiative (and he will attend), so there is a lot of heavyweight government pressure. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and Tourism Australia are coordinating an Australia presence at the event and it is likely the Trade Minster will be in attendance. There are around 14 wineries attending in their own right and Wine Australia is organising a wine area within the Australia National Pavilion. Sandy Clark and Tony Battaglene will also attend as part of our relationship building strategy. This type of ‘soft diplomacy’ is essential to mitigating risk from political differences between our two countries.
Copy Cat product
The WFA Board is also concerned about reports of product exported from Australia that is potentially in breach of trademark law. WFA is working with Wine Australia and the Department of Agriculture to look at options to develop a searchable database/register as part of the export process. This would allow IP rights holders to search the database to identify possible breaches. This would require the reinstatement of labels with permit applications. We expect to see a public database in the next few weeks. This issue impacts on exporters of all sizes.
Canada WTO Action
The WTO challenge has now progressed to the Panel stage with Australia lodging its first request for a panel on 13 August 2018. WFA has been providing support to the DFAT legal team in conjunction with industry in support of the challenge.
EU-Australia Free Trade Agreement
The first round of the EU- Australia Free Trade Agreement was held in early July 2018. Under the new transparency rules, the European Union have released the text of proposed Chapters. There is no clear time frame for completion of the agreement. We have been in regular contact with the negotiating team from DFAT on the agreement and have met several times with them over the past two months. Elimination of tariffs, Prosecco and grape variety names remain our key issue.
Alternative Grape Varieties
Italy continues its attempts to prevent international producers using grape variety names. In July 2018, Italy’s quality and anti-fraud agency under the Ministry of Agriculture called for wine merchants in the UK to block the selling of Australian wines bearing the name of the variety Nero d’Avola on their wine labels. The government body, Ispettorato Centrale Qualità e Repressione Frodi dei Prodotti Agroalimentari (ICQRF) has claimed that several UK merchants have promoted Australian Nero d’Avola on their sites in a way that could be misleading. The ICQRF alleges that by using words such as ‘Sicily’ and ‘Sicilian’ in the wines’ marketing, the Australian wineries and UK merchants are deliberately misleading consumers and the UK, as a member of the EU, should protect the PDO, especially when Sicilian wines are becoming increasingly popular.
The grape’s name is controversial because technically it involves a geographic indication. Australia is currently negotiating a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU, and all GIs are protected under EU laws.
Free Trade Agreements
The Government continues to make strong progress on its Free Trade Agreement agenda. The Transpacific Partnership Agreement (minus United States) (TPP11) is now finalised and awaiting ratification processes in Australia. The Pacific Alliance negotiations are proceeding well - WFA has met with the negotiators and emphasized the importance of inclusion of a wine annex addressing non-tariff measures. Regarding Brexit, it is uncertain what the final form of BREXIT will be, but WFA is confident that there will be a rollover of existing EU regulations in the short term.
Vietnam wine additives and draft law on Prevention and Control of Harms of Alcohol Use
WFA has been working through local contacts lobbying the Vietnamese government for improvements to a recently proposed draft Law for the Prevention and Control of Harms of Alcohol Use in Vietnam. The original drafts of the Law contained a range of measures restricting sales and advertising of alcohol, a proposed health fund to be funded by taxing alcohol businesses and inconsistent treatment of unrecorded or homemade alcohol compared with commercial products.We understand that a more recent draft has been developed and a number of these less than favourable measures have been altered or removed. We will continue to monitor and address as this progresses.
WFA also continues to progress work with the Vietnamese government on approval for use of a range of common wine additives and expect an outcome to this work shortly.