WASHINGTON - The United States has asked the World Trade Organization to establish a dispute settlement panel over what it says are unfair regulations on the sale of wine in British Columbia grocery stores.

The U.S. trade representative's office claims provincial regulations discriminate against imported wines by allowing only B.C. wines to be sold on grocery store shelves.

U.S. trade ambassador Robert Lighthizer says in a news release that Canada is an important market for American winemakers and B.C.'s discriminatory regulations are unacceptable.

American Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says in the release that the discrimination against U.S. wine is unfair and cannot be tolerated.

But the B.C. government says deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement allow some private outlets to sell only wine from a single province.

Trade Minister Bruce Ralston says in a statement that the government will stand up for B.C. wine and hundreds of jobs in the industry.