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Bee Decision Shows Merit Of WTO, Trade Minister

31 January 2000

Bee Decision Shows Merit Of WTO, Trade Minister

World Trade Organization (WTO) rules have helped New Zealand beekeepers win access to the British bee market, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

The Minister said two disease risk assessments undertaken by British authorities concluded on January 13 that there were no legitimate scientific grounds for blocking imports of New Zealand package bees, despite opposition by British beekeepers who cited disease risks as their primary objection.

Under WTO rules, countries are free to adopt measures they deem necessary for the protection of human, animal or plant health, provided the decision is based on sound scientific principles. Such trade-restrictive measures have to be transparent and must not be employed to protect domestic producers from foreign competition.

“Without such rules our beekeepers certainly would not be able to export bees to Britain,” Mr Sutton said.

“The British decision is a quiet reminder, among the ballyhoo from some groups, that the WTO rules-based system does benefit New Zealand, right down to the grassroots of our smaller, but still highly successful, export industries.”

New Zealand’s apiary industry employs approximately 2000 people and last year earned just under $12 million in export receipts.

“The WTO is indispensable to New Zealand exporters,” Mr Sutton said. “It provides a forum in which we can seek trading conditions that are at once more liberal and fairer. Despite sharp criticism in recent months, the WTO provides a reliable framework of rules to ensure consistency in access for our goods to world markets.”

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