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Conway Lawyers Successfully Challenge Alberta Beer Mark-Ups in Interprovincial Trade Dispute

David K. Wilson

A dispute resolution panel under the Agreement on Internal Trade has found that certain mark-ups charged by the Alberta government on beer sold in Alberta contravened the province’s obligations under the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT).

The measures at issue were introduced in October 2015 (see previous post), and imposed higher mark-ups on beer produced in certain provinces than beer produced in Alberta. In August 2016, Alberta announced that an equal mark-up would apply to all beer, but further provided that Alberta brewers could receive a grant equal to the difference in the previous rates.

Ben Grant of Conway represented a beer importer impacted by the changes, Artisan Ales, in a challenge to the measure under the AIT. The AIT is a trade agreement between all provincial and federal governments. The AIT provides a mechanism for private parties to challenge government measures as inconsistent with their obligations under the AIT. Provincial and federal governments recently concluded an updated agreement, the Canadian Free Trade Agreement, to enhance and expand their commitments under the AIT. The new agreement replaces the AIT effective July 1, 2017.

In a decision issued on July 27, 2017, the majority of the dispute resolution panel concluded that both forms of the measure contravened Alberta’s AIT obligation to treat the products of all provinces equally and constituted an impermissible obstacle to trade. The panel directed Alberta to bring its policies into compliance with its AIT obligations as soon as possible and in no case later than six months of the decision. Further coverage of the panel’s decision can be found in the Calgary Herald, the CBC, and Global News.

For questions regarding the Agreement on Internal Trade, the Canadian Free Trade Agreement, or other interprovincial trade issues, please contact David Wilson or Ben Grant at Conway Litigation.