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Quarantine matters! - we won't muck with it.

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AFFA03/027WT - 14 February 2003

Quarantine Matters! — we won’t muck with it

Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss today reassured farmers that Australia’s rigorous quarantine standards would not be negotiable in any free trade agreements (FTA).

“Australia is relatively free of pests and diseases of concern in the rest of the world. We adopt a strong science-based approach to quarantine in order to maintain that status and we will not be changing,” Mr Truss said.

“Claims that Australian quarantine standards were being overridden in the attempt to secure an FTA with the United States were dangerous and completely untrue.”

Quarantine officials from both Australia and the US have been meeting in recent months to gain understanding of each other’s processes for handling quarantine-related market access issues and to establish a process for monitoring their progress.

“These discussions have in no way foreshadowed or compromised the outcomes of the quarantine assessments Australia is undertaking,” Mr Truss said.

“The Australian government is committed to maintaining the ‘clean and green’ reputation of Australian produce. We will be doing nothing to jeopardise that justly deserved reputation.

Proposals to import animal or plant products into Australia are subject to rigorous scientific risk analysis to determine whether these products can be safely imported, and under what conditions.

“Fears that the US would demand Australia weaken its quarantine procedures, or dilute scientific assessments being undertaken are unfounded — there has been no such request.

“Australia’s sovereign right to determine its own risk will not be affected by any FTA agreement.

“Australia has a number of import access requests to the US including, cattle, cherries, tomatoes and citrus, and we expect these to be processed in the same scientific and timely manner.”

Further media inquiries:

Minister Truss' office: Tim Langmead (02) 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433