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Apple protest sends clear message to Aussies

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

22 June 2005

Speech Notes

Apple protest sends clear message to Aussies

This march today sends a clear message to the Australian apple growers and the Australian government.

The continuing ban on New Zealand apples in the Australian market is contrary to the principles of the CER and the rules both countries have signed up to in the WTO. It is an ill-disguised trade barrier. There is no scientific foundation to the claim that mature apples are a vector for fireblight.

Frustration at ongoing delays in Australian authorities delivering on undertakings has led to the New Zealand government raising this issue in the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Committee. This is the first time that either country has taken the other to the WTO.

This matter goes to the WTO next Wednesday. Australia will have to explain in that forum why it has delayed action and what it is going to do to resolve the issue. It will be an embarrassment for a country that is chair of the Cairns Group to confront well-founded allegations of trade protectionism by them.

If no progress is made, clearly there is the option of dispute settlement action. That decision needs to be based on what path is likely to produce the results we want most quickly. Going through the formal WTO dispute settlement process could take up to three years.

We may however get quicker progress than this with the WTO compliance panel report on the US-Japan apples dispute case due this Friday; and if there is a favourable outcome of the Import Risk Analysis, due later this year.

I know you will shortly be talking to the Australian High Commissioner. He said on radio this morning that the Import Risk Analysis will be completed in a matter of months not years. Key Ministers have said the matter will be fixed. I am sure those assurances are made sincerely but we have heard it before.

There is an easy and hard path for both countries to resolve this matter. The easy path is for Australia to do the right thing now by completing its Independent Risk Analysis, and acting on the science rather than waiting to be forced to do so through a further protracted dispute process. That ought to be the message from both growers and government to Australia today.


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