A fight over wine labels reveals a serious flaw in the Canada-Israel trade deal – iPolitics.ca (subscription)

An embarrassing flip-flop by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency over whether wines produced in the Occupied Palestinian Territories can be sold in Canada as a Product of Israel has exposed a curious omission in Canadas free trade agreement with Israel.

The issue goes well beyond a simple matter of misleading labelling, and raises serious legal issues about the status of that agreement itself.

On July 6, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario received a notification from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency indicating that Product of Israel is not an acceptable designation for wine products from the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

According to the LCBO, CFIA based its decision on established Canadian policy, noting that the Government of Canada does not recognize Israels sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967 Wine products from those regions which are labelled as Product of Israel are not acceptable. CFIA accordingly directed LCBO to discontinue sales of the mislabeled products.

Bnai Brith Canada and other Israeli lobby organizations were shocked. This step by CFIA would send Canada in the same direction as other jurisdictions including the European Union, which already demands that West Bank Products be labelled as such.

Bnai Brith pointed to Article 1.4.1b of Canadas Free Trade agreement with Israel (CIFTA), first signed in 1997, claiming it allows products from the Occupied Territories to be labelled Product of Israel, notwithstanding existing Canadian official policy that the West Bank is not part of Israel.

CIFTA Article 1.4.1b states: For the purposes of this Agreement, unless otherwise specified, territory means with respect to Israel the territory where its customs laws are applied.

Since Israeli customs laws have been applied by its military regime in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for over 50 years, Bnai Brith would appear to have a point.

Based on the cited article, all goods produced by Israeli settlers in the West Bank ranging from wines to Ahava beauty products from the Dead Sea to the popular Soda Stream product (which was manufactured in the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim) should be treated as if they were in fact, products of Israel.

Faced with this legal argument, within 24 hours CFIA reversed its decision. In our assessment, we did not fully consider the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA), said a CFIA statement.

On examination however, it appears that similar wording appears in most of Canadas major free trade agreements, but always with a significant qualifier: in accordance with international law. This phrase is missing from the article in the agreement which defines territory. It is not known whether the omission was slipped past nave Canadian negotiators by clever Israeli lawyers, or whether there was political pressure to accept it.

However, the matter might not end there, as the CFIA flip-flop raises a number of difficult legal issues for the Canadian government.

The embarrassing West Bank wine imbroglio, which CFIA and the Canadian government would like to present as a simple labelling mistake, has revealed a serious weakness in the wording of the Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA). The current wording puts Canada out of step with the world community, conflicts with our other existing international agreements and could even hinder our hopes for being elected to the Security Council next year.

Perhaps it is time to take a new look at the Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement and bring its wording back in line with our 12 other free trade agreements.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the authors alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.

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A fight over wine labels reveals a serious flaw in the Canada-Israel trade deal – iPolitics.ca (subscription)

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July 23, 2017   Posted in: Israeli Lobby |

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