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Groser: Go to WTO over apples

Tim Groser MP
National Party Trade Spokesman

1 December 2006

Groser: Go to WTO over apples

"Immediate and decisive action to defend the interests of Kiwi apple growers is now required by invoking the WTO procedures designed specifically for this purpose," says National Party Trade spokesman Tim Groser.

He is commenting on the Australian Government's proposed phytosanitary regime for New Zealand apple access to the Australian market.

"For those who have been following this issue for the past 24 years, we regret to say it is exactly what we had expected: A report, which technically permits the import of NZ apples, but imposes such a draconian regime that it is essentially meaningless in a commercial sense. No New Zealand apple exporter could profitably export apples within the framework of the draft regime.

"There is a further 45 day period allowed for an appeal. If no such appeal is forthcoming, this proposed regime would come into force on 12 January 2007. It would be astonishing, considering the long and fractured nature of this dispute, if anything other than purely cosmetic changes are made during this period.

"In all the 25 years I have represented NZ interests on GATT and WTO matters prior to entering politics, I cannot recall a dispute between any two WTO members so characterised by delays, obfuscations and indecision. The time has come for the Labour Government to take decisive action to defend NZ interests.

"Unless substantial changes are made by the Australian Government to the proposed regime within the 45 day period, the Labour Government must, on 13 January 2007, initiate the commencement of the formal dispute settlement provisions of the WTO.

"This would be the first occasion on which either New Zealand or Australia has had to resort to multilateral dispute settlement procedures to resolve a bilateral trade dispute. However, it is time to use the rules and procedures designed specifically for this purpose.

"New Zealand and Australia have an excellent relationship across all fronts, but on this issue we have reached the end of the road. The Labour Government must stop prevaricating on this dispute and exercise the leadership New Zealanders expect of their Governments," says Mr Groser.

ENDS

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