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Sutton & Sonnleitner Press Conference Transcript

GERD SONNLEITNER stand-up:

Mr Sutton: we should shake hands again. Thank you, it was a very good meeting and I look forward to meeting you again.

Mr Sonnleitner: I invite you to come to Germany, and I will show you some farms - big farms, small farms. We will eat German lamb together and New Zealand lamb too.

Reporters: Mr Sonnleitner, we'd like a few words?

Sonnleitner: I will speak to the Meat Board first and there will be a statement this afternoon.

Sutton: I'm satisfied with the outcome of this matter. We've had excellent discussions and Herr Sonnleitner will be speaking formally to the Meat Board about the matters of the last few days. At the same time, I'm grateful for the way he personally has involved himself in reaching a solution satisfactory to our industry.

Reporter: Has he confirmed they will be putting out a press release to the media?

Sutton: all those things were discussed and he'll be speaking formally to the Meat Board, with whom discussions were held. I'm satisfied that the statements that have been made by the Meat Board reflect what will happen.

Reporter: do you still think it was deliberate?

Sutton: he assured me that from his point of view as a director, that it was not deliberate and I accept that. I don't however of course believe that the words were put out by accident. Somebody knew what they were doing, but I have no complaints about the way in which the German Government and Herr Sonnleitner have turned their attention to resolving the issue. I think they've done it with goodwill and good faith.

Reporter: Of course, there's no guarantee the release will be used.

Sutton: No, we'll have to await the outcome of all that.

Reporter: Are you happy with the Meat Board's handling of this?

Sutton: they are representative of the whole industry, primary producers and the processors and marketers, and I think they're in a better position to - and they have legal and marketing people on the ground in Germany and I think they're in a better position to know what is a suitable resolution than anyone else, and I am happy to go with their judgment.

Reporter: they always said it was an honest mistake.

Sutton: I didn't entirely agree with them on that, but as I say, they're in a position to represent the industry and they're in a position to be well informed as to what is likely to be an effective remedy of resolving this.

Reporter: you seem to be saying that Sonnleitner and his higher echelons didn't go out deliberately to sabotage New Zealand's trade, but somebody did.

Sutton: yes, I think somebody in that organisation knew exactly what they were doing, but clearly, Herr Sonnleitner would not have come to New Zealand at this time if he had known what a firestorm he was going to land in and I think he's conducted himself with dignity and integrity.

Reporter: If that press release is sent out and no-one publishes it, what then?

Sutton: well, I think it would be a story, it'll get published.

Reporter: Is there any progress with the foot and mouth outbreak in France?

Sutton: You probably know as much as I do about that. I'm sending a message of sympathy to Jean Glavany, the French minister of agriculture, who I've met on a couple of occasions. I think he can feel justified. They took very rigorous steps when the British outbreak appeared and slaughtered all the sheep that had come from Britain in the preceding week and I think this latest event proves he was entirely justified in that measure which was criticised at the time.

Reporter: In terms of the New Zealand border, are people coming from France inspected?

Sutton: we automatically do that. Everytime there is an incident, we review the biosecurity status of people coming from those areas.

Reporter: Will there be a ban on European goods coming here completely?

Sutton: yes.

Reporter: Do we import much from these countries?

Sutton: no, not much

Reporter: a bit of Parma ham?

Sutton: I don't know. Just because the label says Parma Ham, you wouldn't know. You never know where it comes from.

Reporter: Mr Sutton, are you going to ban all imports from Europe?

Sutton: Yes, in the meantime.

Reporter: When?

Sutton: it's already happened. When we got news of the latest outbreak. Plus the rather equivocal status of some sheep in Italy as well.

ENDS./

14 March 2001

MAF suspends animal product imports from entire European Union

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has placed a temporary suspension on the importation of certain animal products from European Union countries following the discovery of foot and mouth disease in France.

The Ministry has today revoked all relevant Import Health Standards - the standards that allow the importation of certain risk goods into New Zealand - while it awaits clarification on the foot and mouth status of the affected countries.

Animal Biosecurity Director, Derek Belton, says the suspensions will remain in place until European Union countries have satisfied New Zealand that they are totally free of the disease.

Dr Belton says trade impacts from the suspension are not expected to be large. The products covered by the revoking of the standards include meat and dairy products, by-products, semen, embryos and live cloven hoofed animals.

"This move recognises that we are conscious of the risk associated with the significant amount of animal movement that takes place across Europe," explains Dr Belton.

The United States has put a similar ban in place and Dr Belton says MAF is in regular contact with Europe, North America and Australia regarding their reaction to the French outbreak.

The Ministry has alerted the MAF Quarantine Service to the European developments and travellers arriving from EU countries are now receiving the heightened level of attention that has been given to passengers from other countries with foot and mouth, including the UK.

"These people will be screened and assessed for the likelihood of them bringing in risk products, and will be questioned as to whether they have been on livestock farms," says Dr Belton.

Any risk products found will be confiscated and footwear or outdoor equipment that has been used on or near a farm will be cleaned and/or fumigated.

An outbreak of foot and mouth disease was coincidentally confirmed in Argentina yesterday, and similar protective measures have been put in place.


Office of Hon Jim Sutton


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