Canada to lift its curbs on beer imports Move could boost Heileman brewery in Halethorpe.

April 01, 1992|By Clyde H. Farnsworth | Clyde H. Farnsworth,New York Times News Service

TORONTO -- Under strong U.S. trade pressure, the Canadian government announced yesterday that it would end discrimination against imports of foreign beer over the next three years, which could be a boost to the G. Heileman Brewing Co. brewery in Halethorpe.

The confrontation between the United States and Canada over beer sales is one of several trade disputes that has had the two North American partners accusing each other of protectionist ways recently. Other battles are being fought over lumber and automobiles.

The United States has said it will impose duties on Canadian beer by April 10 if the Canadians refuse to alter their rules, and Washington has yet to lift that threat. The initial U.S. reaction to yesterday's announcement was cool. Officials expressed unhappiness about the three-year transition.

Kathy Lydon, assistant U.S. trade representative for public affairs, said Canada had provided few details about its plans.

Provincial pricing and distribution regulations have made it difficult for imported beer to get a foothold in Canada. Two U.S. brewers, Stroh Brewery Co. and Heileman, brought a formal complaint that finally led to a ruling last year against the Canadian selling practices by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the 100-nation organization that oversees world trade.

When Canada loosens its restrictions, Heileman's Baltimore County plant could become much more important. Company officials have said that the brewery, which has about 400 employees, could be used to supply Canada's eastern provinces.

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