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Groser should have been able to halt trade ban

Clayton Cosgrove
Trade Spokesperson

14 August 2013

Groser should have been able to halt trade ban

The Russian trade ban on Fonterra products is set to last until next year and may have been avoided if Moscow Embassy officials had been able to provide safety assurances to Russia, says Labour’s Trade spokesperson Clayton Cosgrove.

“It is ten days since Russia imposed a ban on Fonterra products yet Tim Groser has changed his position twice - first denying reports was a ban, before finally confirming it yesterday.

“The trade ban has been widely reported in Russia by state-owned media as being in effect since 4 August. Yet Mr Groser denied there was a ban on 6 August. He has now confirmed there is one. Where did the confusion come from and why was it not sorted out?

“According to the Russian Federal Service for Consumer Rights Protection, New Zealand Embassy staff in Moscow did not address the watchdog’s concerns in a meeting on 7 August, four days after the story broke.

“No exhaustive answers were provided to questions posed by the agency. Given that there was no risk from Fonterra products in Russia it beggars belief that New Zealand officials could not provide safety assurances.

“Officials were too slow to reassure the Russians that there were no issues with Fonterra products. Russia now requires a new inspection of almost all New Zealand dairy products. This will not happen until next year at the earliest.

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“The bans from Kazakhstan and Belarus appear to have surprised Mr Groser, despite the countries being part of a customs union with Russia that we are negotiating a free trade agreement with. That agreement, worth millions to our economy, may face a set back.

“The Government’s response appears to be inadequate. A Trade Minister must act quickly and effectively on all issues that affect our export markets.

“In this situation I would have made sure officials were on the ground, sorting this out. I would demand to know the status of any ban within 24 hours. Then I would travel to those countries and sort out the issues,” says Clayton Cosgrove.

ENDS

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