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Government Working To Protect Lamb Access

Wednesday 16 June 1999
Embargoed until 12 noon


Agriculture continues to be a major export earner for New Zealand and the Government is working with the industry to maximise its profitability, Prime Minister Jenny Shipley said today.

Mrs Shipley was opening the National Agricultural Field Days at Mystery Creek, Hamilton.

"An agricultural audience such as this has the right to know about the work that has been going on.

"In trade areas, Government, industry, Producer Boards and farmer lobby groups continue to defend and make inroads into new markets," she said.

"The lamb case in the United States is currently occupying us all. After very good growth in the US market, US lamb producers have taken on New Zealand and Australia.

"New Zealand exports into the US market have almost doubled in volume and value since 1995. That does not in our opinion justify adverse action being taken against New Zealand lamb simply because US farmers dislike the competition," Mrs Shipley said.

"US consumers eat only one pound of lamb each year, so there is plenty of room for growth.

"Government ministers and our Ambassador in Washington, along with the Meat Board, Federated Farmers and the meat industry, have put a significant lobbying effort into this issue.

"I can find no justification for major action being taken against New Zealand. If this occurs, the New Zealand Government will take every remedy available to us including taking action at the World Trade Organisation.

"New Zealand farmers can be assured that every step available to us has been taken. Trade Minister Lockwood Smith has lobbied US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky and Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman.

"Sir William Birch has contacted his US Treasury counterpart and Max Bradford pursued the issue at a political level during his talks in Washington earlier this month.

"I have spoken directly to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and President Clinton during the last fortnight. We have all made it clear that we believe there is no justification for an imposition of trade restrictions that harm New Zealand's fair trading opportunities."

Mrs Shipley said the Government had a strong record of working with the farming community to overcome obstacles to markets.

"The recent success of the spreadable butter case in the European Union is a good case in point. A sustained strategy of political intervention at the highest level and very effective industry negotiation delivered results.

"Where Governments have moved against us, as in the Canadian milk case, the New Zealand Government has not hesitated in taking countries to the WTO. In this case we won, which is important for our export interests."

Prime Minister Jenny Shipley said the Government would take the same action against others if required.


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