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WTO Fire blight decision delayed.



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THE HON DR SHARMAN STONE MP Federal Member for Murray Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

Wednesday 12 August 2009

WTO Fire blight decision delayed

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has given notice that its final report investigating Australia’s quarantine conditions on the importation of fresh apples from New Zealand will not be released until early next year.

New Zealand, a fire blight infected country has been trying to export their apples to Australia for many years. In 2007 Bio-security Australia set specific quarantine requirements for the importation of fresh apples into Australia from New Zealand.

Dr Sharman Stone, Federal Member for Murray said New Zealand then lodged a dispute with the WTO complaining that Australia’s restrictions were too tough and inconsistent with WTO free trade regulations,”

“In September last year the WTO panel announced that it expected to issue its final report on investigations into the dispute by July 2009.

“The WTO panel has now announced that more time is required to identify and select an expert panel, prepare questions and consult with stakeholders. The WTO estimates that the final report will not be completed until January 2010, after which there will be an appeal period before the final determination of Australia’s apple importing restrictions.

Dr Stone said she hoped the additional expert consultation process will reaffirm the scientific evidence that importing fresh apples from known fire blight infected countries will potentially contaminate the disease free Australian apple and pear industries.

“Basic quarantine restrictions are simply not enough when there is strong scientific evidence that any importation of apples from regions with fire blight threatens the disease free status of Australia.

“Fruit growers have been facing enormous challenges including 7 years of drought, the effects of the global economic crisis on commodity prices and the Rudd Labor Governments Award Modernisation process which will increase the cost of labour.

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“We can not afford a fire blight outbreak of any magnitude particularly in the Goulburn Valley which hosts 60 percent of Australia’s pear industry.

“Why would any fire blight free country risk infection from this incurable pomme fruit disease?

“The fight has been long and hard, but so far commonsense has prevailed,” Sharman Stone said.

Media enquiries: Jo Shannon 0417 148 110