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Response to the Nelson Mail

20 May 2005

Response to the Nelson Mail

The Government appreciates Nelson applegrowers' frustrations at the time it is taking Australia to complete the Import Risk Assessment (IRA) procedure for New Zealand apples, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

"New Zealand certainly wants to ensure that the IRA process is science-based and we gain meaningful access. This process has been dragging on for far too long".

Mr Sutton said he recently met with the founders of the "Australian Access Action Group" and had briefed them on the Government's position.

"As I made clear to the Group, the Government is pursuing this matter vigorously, and no options have been ruled out".

"There is already a similar case before the WTO on apple access between the United States and Japan. We participated as a third party in that dispute. The WTO ruled that the risk of apples in commercial trade spreading fire blight is negligible. This ruling supports our view that any such measures to protect against fire blight are unjustified."

"Japan modified its measures in light of the WTO decision, and these are now the subject of WTO compliance panel proceedings. The result of that case should have a significant impact on what Australia does in respect of our apples."

Mr Sutton assured apple growers that access to the Australian market remained an important priority for the Government, and it was raised at every appropriate opportunity with the Australian Government.

"They know it is not going to go away."

ENDS


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