International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says the federal government will be “steadfast” in protecting Canadian interests, including the wine industry, during NAFTA negotiations with the United States.

Champagne told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday that Canada’s NAFTA negotiators will always look after this country’s best interests, whether the discussions are about Canadian lumber, dairy industry or wine.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer recently brought up the issue of wine, after the U.S. launched a trade challenge by asking the World Trade Organization to examine why the B.C. government was allowing only wine produced within the province to be sold in grocery stores. The U.S. considers the practice discriminatory to American wine exports.

Lighthizer suggested in June that the issue could perhaps be resolved during the new NAFTA negotiations.

When asked about the Canadian wine industry on Thursday, Champagne said the government is “behind our producers and we will defend how we do that in this country.”

Champagne said he is “optimistic” about NAFTA negotiations in general because of the “comprehensive” trade relationship between Canada and the United States.

“The first thing we did was engage comprehensively with the United States. This is Team Canada playing. Everyone in Canada has played a role,” he said.

The Canadian wine industry won some concessions in the 1987 Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, which allowed it to grandfather in some protectionist measures in exchange for opening up the Canadian market to more U.S. wines. Those protections were integrated into NAFTA.

With files from The Canadian Press