Cooperating with the World Wine Trade Group

This Group has used a range of informal and formal mechanisms to lower regulatory trade barriers since 1998.

IRC option: Mutual recognition, Informal cooperation

Read more about the cooperation options

Policy area/sector: Trade, Agriculture

The World Wine Trade Group (WWTG) has successfully used a range of different informal and formal mechanisms to address specific regulatory trade barriers. This has required the the combined efforts of industry representatives, regulators and trade officials.

The group focused on common goals and objectives, combined with a practical focus on regulatory cooperation activities that build trust and confidence. This  meant that the WWTG has developed a portfolio of statements and agreements that have deepened regulatory cooperation over time. These statements and agreements are influencing global regulatory developments in relation to wine.

A partnership approach that grew trust and set clear priorities

The way that the group operates, with its joint and separate sessions is instrumental. For example, a wine regulators forum provides  an opportunity to discuss possible approaches to emerging regulatory issues. The WWTG works with other international public and private sector bodies to discuss public policy issues such as sustainability and how to reduce the harmful use of alcoholic beverages. It has also provided a platform to coordinate industry and government approaches to particular regulatory issues in infant wine markets (such as winemaking additives in Japan and China).

This partnership approach is driven by:

  • clear priorities about which issues and barriers could be usefully addressed
  • building knowledge and trust which allowed it to move from finding agreement on technical matters to more difficult or general issues.

The WWTG has invited country representatives to observe its meetings and has activelysought opportunities to extend its trade facilitation philosophy to other countries. An important initiative has been the development of the APEC Wine Regulators Forum (under the auspices of the APEC sub-committee on standards and conformance).

Lessons learnt

What can we learn from a scheme that built trust and lowered trade barriers?

Start with common goals and objectives

The initial meetings of the WWTG provided both industry and regulators an opportunity to take stock of emerging issues in relation to the global wine trade. From this they developed a strategic plan and integrated set of action plans to achieve the specific goals and objectives. The industry plan was renewed in 2010 and 2015. It has driven and focused discussions on issues that need to be addressed.

Share information

Information sharing has been an important feature of WWTG meetings. Discussions within the group have resulted in a better collective understanding of market developments and international trade issues affecting the global wine trade, and  the range of possible responses to these issues.

Industry and regulators must work together

WWTG meetings feature both joint and separate sessions of the government and industry. Industry representatives often produce agreed statements during their discussions and formally communicate them to the government sector at the closing session of the meeting. These statements often generate agenda items and discussions at subsequent meetings of the government section. Governments often conclude their discussions by reporting an agreement to produce or consider various papers prior to the next meeting of the group.

Start by building trust, then work toward more difficult issues

The statements and agreements produced by the WWTG shows a clear trajectory from practical issues where there is industry/government agreement through technical regulatory issues to more general regulatory principles. The first agreement is the 2001 Agreement on Mutual Acceptance of Oenological Practices which will be explained further on. The MAA has had a profound impact on trade with further agreements helping to overcome further barriers including cost reduction.

A suite of agreements

The World Wine Trade Group (WWTG) is a group of industry, regulator and trade officials from the wine-producing countries of Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Georgia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States and Uruguay. These countries have a mutual interest in facilitating the international trade in wine and in protecting consumers. These countries account for around 27% of global wine production and 29% of global wine exports in 2016. The focus of the WWTG is on:

  • Information sharing
  • Joint action to remove trade barriers
  • Discussion on regulatory issues in market
  • Agreements to facilitate trade between members.

A common regulatory benchmark

The WWTG has developed a suite of agreements to provide a common benchmark of regulatory principles and standards for global wine trade. The MAA, Labelling Agreement and the Labelling Protocol are binding agreements between the WWTG members which underpin their shared interest.

2001 Agreement on Mutual Acceptance of Oenological Practices (MAA)

Under the MAA, wine made in accordance with winemaking practices permitted in one signatory country may be imported into another signatory country. It does not matter what the winemaking practice rules are in that importing country. In practical terms it means that the need for certification for wine is reduced.

The MAA was developed after industry and governments agreed that differences in winemaking practices should not act as a barrier to trade. An in-depth analysis was undertaken to enable governments to assess whether mutual acceptance was possible and what, if any, regulatory changes they may need to make in order to accommodate such an agreement. Not only does the MAA recognise the legitimacy of different approaches to the making and regulating of wine but it also ensures that the introduction of new technologies is not likely to create disruptions in trade.

It is the first plurilateral mutual acceptance agreement, in any field, fully compliant with the WTO’s Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement. 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.

Labelling Agreement (2007) and Protocol (2013)

Differing national requirements around the presentation and placement of information on wine labels was recognised as being another major source of unnecessary cost and an impediment to trade. At the same time, it was recognised that there was a need to protect consumer health and safety, and prevent consumer deception.

The 2007 Agreement on Requirements for Wine Labelling (the Labelling Agreement) enables wine exporters to sell wine into WWTG markets without having to redesign all of their labels for each individual market. Different markets will always have different labelling requirements. The agreement addresses this by allowing labels with common mandatory information to be used across all major wine markets, and a second label with the unique requirements of specific markets and non-mandatory items as required. For consumers it means important information on the bottle is easy to find within a single field of vision.

The 2013 Labelling Protocol extends the earlier Agreement by providing for a degree of harmonisation of rules regarding alcohol tolerance, variety, wine region and vintage.

These agreements mean that consumers are able to easily locate important information on a bottle and reduces costs for producers and suppliers.

2011 Memorandum of Understanding of Certification Requirements (Certification MoU)

The MAA meant that routine certification or analysis is not required for winemaking practices. The Certification MoU provides that routine certification about wine composition should not be required other than on health and safety grounds consistent with WTO rules. It also requires that any certification must be in line with Codex standards. Agreeing to this MoU established an important principle for WWTG countries. In order to achieve these commitments participants must exchange information on maximum residue limits.

2014 Tbilisi Statement

WWTG governments supported the need to establish and enforce regulation around production, composition and identity of wine. But they also recognised the increased costs to business from undertaking unnecessary analysis. The Tbilisi Statement set out an agreed set of principles relating to analytical methodology and regulatory limits on constituents and potential contaminants in wine.

2017 Arrangement on Information Exchange, Technical Cooperation and Counterfeiting

This Arrangement sets out general provisions relating to information exchange and cooperation in regulatory matters. There are specific provisions about counterfeiting which indicate that participants intend to consider appropriate actions to address counterfeiting that go beyond information exchange and capacity building to detection and authentication methods.

2017 Cape Town Regulatory Principles for Wine

In addition to the Tbilisi Statement, in 2017 WWTG governments endorsed 4 regulatory principles for wine:

  • Communication on enforcement activity
  • Limits of detection
  • Expiration of date labelling
  • Applying wine-specific limits.

These principles were first put forward by industry, and after endorsement by WWTG governments were forwarded to the APEC Wine Regulators Forum. In 2018, two more principles were endorsed in Argentina, the harmonisation of references and the presence of non-pesticide substances in wine.

References and sources

World Wine Trade Group(external link)