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Strong message at WTO SPS committee hearing

30 June 2005

Strong message at WTO SPS committee hearing

New Zealand officials delivered a strong message against the Australian ban on the importation of apples at the WTO quarantine rules committee this morning, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said.

Mr Sutton said the delay in sorting out an import system for New Zealand apples into Australia was raised under the "specific trade concerns" item on the sanitary and phytosanitary committee of the World Trade Organisation.

"The New Zealand statement was very clear, and delivered a strong message. It was supported by other countries as well, including from the two heavy hitters the United States and the European Union."

Mr Sutton said WTO members, including Australia, were left in no doubt about New Zealand's frustration with this 84 year-old dispute and the seriousness of our intentions to resolve it.

"The significance of this step clearly registered with other WTO members ? this is the first time we have placed an issue of concern with Australia on the agenda of any WTO committee, and only the fourth time we have raised an issue under this category in the SPS committee.

Mr Sutton said the apple concerns would remain on the SPS agenda till resolved.

"If a mutually acceptable solution cannot be reached, further options for resolving this long-standing issue cannot be ruled out."

Australia refuses to allow the importation of apples, including those from New Zealand because of concerns about a disease called fireblight. However, the WTO recently ruled that mature apples do not transmit the disease and that there is no scientific justification for such trade barriers.

ENDS

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