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Kiwis allowed to take bite out of Australian apple market

Tuesday 10th August 2010

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Australia’s trade barriers against the import of New Zealand apples based on alleged fire blight risk is spurious, according to the verdict of the World Trade Organisation’s Panel.

The global trade referee ruled firmly in a report in favour of New Zealand, who lodged a case with the Geneva-based body when protracted discussions over 24 years reached an impasse three years ago.

“This is excellent and long awaited news for our apple industry,” said Minister of Trade, Tim Groser.

“The report represents a solid and very clear win in this long running case. Critically, the report is based on extremely thorough analysis by independent external arbiters – it settles any debate.”

New Zealand has been trying for more than 90 years to export apples to Australia. The trans-Tasman neighbour has maintained that the possible risk of importing fire blight, European canker and apple leaf-curling midge vectors justified their quarantine-related measures.

The report found that all 16 of Australia’s quarantine measures, along with their current import risk analysis are inconsistent with their legal obligations as a WTO member under the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement.

“The Panel has come to the same conclusion we did some years ago – that Australia’s objections to the importation of New Zealand apples are simply not backed by adequate scientific evidence,” Groser said.

“There are some procedural choices ahead of both parties in Geneva before the Panel Report has the force of international law, such as the right of appeal and cross appeal. However, fundamentally the ball is in Australia’s court.”

Groser said that as Australia is in the middle of a Federal election campaign, any other comments can only come once he has been formally advised of the Australian government’s response.

It is estimated that unrestricted access for New Zealand apples could see this country take about 5% of the market, worth about $30 million.

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