The WWTG has enjoyed significant achievements to date. The WWTG continues to play an important role in influencing international wine trade arrangements, with a core driver for the creation of the WWTG being a mutual interest in facilitating international trade and avoiding the application of trade obstacles. The success of the WWTG has helped rejuvenate international thinking on international wine trade issues. The key achievements of the WWTG are outlined below.
The major achievements of the World Wine Trade Group include:
- Mutual Acceptance Agreement on Oenological Practices
- 2007 Agreement on Requirements for Wine Labeling
- Memorandum of Understanding on Certification
- Protocol to the 2007 Agreement on Requirements for Wine Labeling
- The 2017 Arrangement on Information Exchange, Technical Cooperation and Counterfeiting
Mutual Acceptance Agreement on Oenological Practices
Early discussions at the New World Wine Producers identified the possible threats to trade that arose from differing national rules on oenological practices. At the first Zurich meeting it was agreed that such differences should not be a basis for erecting technical barriers to trade.
From this point it was agreed to develop a Mutual Acceptance Agreement on Oenological Practices (MAA). The text of the Agreement was first discussed in Santiago, Chile in October 1999 and was further refined at the subsequent meetings in Queenstown, New Zealand and Sonoma, United States of America.
The text of the Agreement, which has full treaty status, was initialed by the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada at the commencement of the Adelaide meeting in April 2001. The text was finally signed in Toronto, Canada in December of 2001 by Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, and the United States.
The MAA is a landmark in the development of international trade. It is the first multi-lateral Mutual Acceptance Agreement, in any field, fully compliant with the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement. For winemakers, exporters and importers the implications of the Agreement are profound - assured access to markets without the costs and frustrations of barriers to trade based on differences in oenological practices.
The essence of the MAA is that wine made in accordance with oenological practices permitted in one signatory country may be imported into any other signatory country regardless of the rules applying to oenological practices in the importing country. This agreement recognizes the legitimacy of different approaches to making and regulating and also ensures that the introduction of new technologies is not likely to create disruptions in trade. In terms of barriers at the border, this agreement has obviated the need for certification of winemaking practices between signatories. It also establishes a number of benchmarks for international trade in wine, such as enshrining the primacy of the WTO agreements and the need to protect consumer health and safety and prevent consumer deception.
Differing national requirements around the presentation and placement of information on wine labels was recognised by the WWTG as being another major source of unnecessary cost and impediment to the international trade in wine. The idea of a parallel agreement to address this issue was proposed in Chile in 1999, and progressed through a working group that presented its recommendations at the meeting in Sonoma, California in October 2001. The “Sonoma Principles”, as it came to be known, formed the basis for negotiations on a labeling agreement that commenced after the signing of the MAA.
The Agreement on Requirements for Wine Labeling (the Labeling Agreement) was signed in Canberra, Australia on 23 January 2007. The purpose of the Labeling Agreement is to accept common labeling information and to minimise unnecessary labeling-related trade barriers with the objective of facilitating international trade in wine among the parties.
The Labeling Agreement recognises that different markets will always have different labeling requirements. It addresses this issue by allowing a producer to have one label that can be used across all major wine markets, with a second label upon which the unique requirements of specific markets can be adjusted as required. Upon until now, this has not been possible. The agreement achieves this by:
- Harmonising the presentation of those items of information that are required by all countries and placing them in a “single field of vision”;
- Giving producers the flexibility to place other items of mandatory or controlled information that are specific to one country on any label they choose; and
- Allowing producers to repeat any mandatory or controlled information; and
- Allowing producers freedom to use other descriptive information as long as it is not false, misleading or deceptive.
Once again, the Labeling Agreement enshrines the primacy of the WTO agreements and the need to protect consumer health and safety and prevent consumer deception.
The harmonisation and simplification of labeling requirements through the Labeling Agreement reduces the production, application, warehousing and waste of labels. Gains can be made from economies of scale, and savings achieved from label printing costs, and production line costs (because of fewer stoppages). With consistent wine labeling across markets, winemakers/exporters can sell wine in various markets within the WWTG and the European Union, print and affix different front labels for each market. The Labeling Agreement also benefits consumers by ensuring that important items of information on the bottle are easily locatable within a single field of vision.
Following successful implantation of the Labeling Agreement, The Protocol to the 2007 WWTG Agreement on Requirements for Wine Labeling concerning Alcohol Tolerance, Vintage, Variety and Wine Region was signed by WWTG members on March 21, 2013 in Brussels. The Protocol builds on the Labeling Agreements standards by requiring participating countries to allow for the importation and sale of wine from other signatories, provided it meets minimum standards for labeling related to alcohol tolerance, vintage, variety and region. Once in force, the Protocol should provide enhanced access to overseas markets, enhanced predictability about regulation in key markets and will set a useful benchmark for WWTG Observer countries and other non-members.
Many countries require certification of compositional requirements for wine relating to matters such as oenological practices, maximum levels of contaminants or toxicants, and maximum residue levels for agrichemicals. Some countries require assurances in respect of their wine composition rules in the form of certification or laboratory analysis requirements on imported wines entering their market. Other countries require laboratory analysis to be conducted once the wines have entered the market, sometimes at the expense of the exporter. These requirements can act as unwarranted barriers to trade, particularly when they do not relate to a proven health or safety issue in relation to wine, or when the exporting country already has adequate systems in place to address any such issues.
Noting that the MAA already provided that routine certification should not be required between parties for oenological practices, the Industry Section circulated a paper in 2006 proposing that a similar arrangement be considered for compositional aspects of wine that could not be defined as oenological practices. This proposal was taken up by the Regulators Forum and developed into Memorandum of Understanding on Certification Requirements (Certification MoU).
The Certification MoU provides that routine certification of wine composition should not be required other than on health and safety grounds, as well as requiring that any certification must be in line with Codex standards. While there are currently few instances of such certification requirements between WWTG parties, the Certification MoU establishes an important principle within WWTG and positions the WWTG for the potential entry of new members.
Information sharing has been an important feature of WWTG meetings. Discussions within the Group have promoted a better understanding of the range of possible approaches to issues, and in some cases has led to the formulation of a consensus approach within the Group. Routine discussions concern issues such as:
- Trends in wine production and sales,
- The state of bi-lateral and multi-lateral trade negotiations,
- The state of wine issues in the OIV, Codex Alimentarius and the WTO,
- Viti- vinicultural practices,
- Labeling and intellectual property issues, etc.,
- Sustainable production.
The January 2007 meeting included, for the first time, a Regulators Forum to provide regulatory bodies with an opportunity to discuss possible approaches to emerging regulatory issues. In 2011, a joint meeting was held between FIVS and WWTG on Sustainability, which identified important synergies between WWTG and non-WWTG industries around this topic. The WWTG also represented the global wine industry, in conjunction with CEEV, at the WTO consultation on its strategy for reduction of harmful use of alcohol beverages in 2008.
When consensus is reached on an issue this often engenders a co-coordinated approach to wine issues in other international fora - notably the World Trade Organisation, the OIV and the Codex Alimentarius. Frequently informal group caucuses are held before meetings of such groups to identify matters of mutual interest and to agree on a coordinated approach if this is possible. This co-ordination ensures that the voice of the group, and participant countries, is heard forcefully in international organisations, often as a counterweight to more trade restrictive views espoused by some other countries.
The WWTG has effectively provided a forum for members to develop input into two generations of EU wine reforms as well as numerous WTO notifications from various countries. It has provided a platform to coordinate industry and government approaches to particular regulatory issues in developing markets, such as winemaking additives in Japan and China.
WWTG has always welcomed participation from countries that share its trade facilitating objectives, and has invited representatives from many countries to observe its activities over the years. It has also been active in seeking opportunities to extend the trade facilitating philosophies of the WWTG with other countries and in other fora. In 2006, it set down principles derived from the WWTG agreements that could be applied in other international contexts.
The most important extension initiative has been the development of the APEC Wine Regulators Forum (WRF). Building on initial contacts made in 2003, WWTG has been the driving force behind the establishment of this Forum within the auspices of the APEC Sub-Committee on Standards and Conformance.
During the Washington, DC based WWTG meetings held in July of 2006, participants adopted the first industry section strategic plan, together with an integrated set of action plans to achieve the specified goals and objectives. These plans addressed topics pertinent to international wine trade, such as environmental stewardship, codes of advertising and emerging markets. The plan was renewed in 2010 and 2015, and now drives and focuses the discussions of the industry section, creating opportunities for further progress in achieving the objectives of the Group as a whole.