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NZ maintains pressure on Australia over apples

Hon Jim Anderton
Minister of Biosecurity

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Trade

30 March 2006

Media statement

NZ maintains pressure on Australia over apples

The government today delivered a detailed submission to Biosecurity Australia on its revised draft Import Risk Analysis (IRA) on New Zealand apples, Biosecurity Minister Jim Anderton and Trade Minister Phil Goff said.

Today is the deadline for submissions on the IRA.

"The government's submission on the draft IRA involved intense consultation with the New Zealand apple industry. It expresses the significant concerns we share about the conditions that have been proposed for our apple access," Mr Anderton said.

"The draft IRA acknowledges in principle that New Zealand apples should be allowed into Australia, but the government and the apple industry continue to have serious concerns that New Zealand apples will be required to meet conditions that are simply not justified.

"New Zealand's response focuses on the science and analysis presented in the draft IRA, and addresses what we perceive to be errors in fact and reasoning. In particular, we have expressed concern about assumptions that our exports would only involve sorted and graded fruit in bulk bins, and estimations that New Zealand apple exports to Australia might reach 200 million fruit annually.

"We are arguing that our apples would be entirely retail-ready grade one export quality, and that volumes of exports would start at about 5 million fruit and grow slowly to 50 million. Both these facts would have a substantial effect on reducing the perceived degree of risk associated with importing New Zealand apples."

There are still a number of steps for Australia to take in the IRA process, including a review of comments received on the draft IRA, before work on a final version can begin.

"The issue of New Zealand apple access to Australia has now been around for 85 years and it is time for the matter to be resolved," Phil Goff said.

"The IRA process is under way and we want to see it completed. Interminable delay is not acceptable, and should there not be resolution of it within a reasonable time frame, other options including formal referral to the WTO disputes settlement procedure will need to be considered.

"We are also concerned that the draft IRA does not comment on the recent apples dispute in the WTO between the US and Japan. The WTO finding that there is a negligible risk of apples in commercial trade transmitting fire blight is especially relevant to the trade of apples from New Zealand to Australia.

"Yesterday New Zealand also delivered a strong message on apple access to Australia at the WTO Sanitary and Phyto Sanitary (SPS) Committee meeting in Geneva, for the third time in this forum.

"The points we have made in our submission need to be reflected when Biosecurity Australia issues its final IRA. But if this is not the case, or if there are undue delays in its release, referral of the issue to the WTO disputes settlement procedures may be the only option left, notwithstanding that this process itself may take an extended time period to work through," Mr Goff said.

Note: A pdf of the 90-page NZ submission will be available on the Australia Division homepage of www.mfat.govt.nz from 5pm, when it becomes a public document.


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