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Australia to defend position on NZ apple imports.

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DAFF07/121PM - 20 August 2007

Australia to defend position on NZ apple imports

Australia will vigorously defend its position in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) after New Zealand decided to lodge a complaint over the importation of New Zealand apples, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter McGauran, said today.

Mr McGauran said he had received notification from the New Zealand Government today that it would begin dispute procedures in the WTO.

“The Australian Government will strongly defend its actions and policy determination on the basis of science,” Mr McGauran said.

“I am confident that our approach to quarantine is consistent with the WTO rules.”

New Zealand has complained of delays in finalising a quarantine and inspection workplan that will govern the importation of apples to Australia. New Zealand’s orchards contain the bacterial disease fire blight, which is not present in Australia.

The workplan being finalised by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) will involve orchard inspections, pre-export treatment of the fruit, further inspection on arrival and continual auditing of the system.

Mr McGauran said the first step in the WTO dispute process was a consultation stage, which required Australia and New Zealand to try to settle their differences out of court.

“It is always Australia’s strong preference to settle WTO disputes bilaterally,” he said.

“We will continue to work with New Zealand towards this end, but any resolution must be within the context of our science-based quarantine regime and very low-risk setting.”

Mr McGauran noted that AQIS’s workplan for the importation of New Zealand apples would be completed before the case was heard by the WTO.

“The workplan will be submitted to New Zealand soon,” Mr McGauran said.

“I believe there is a way to go on this issue before anybody is locked into a definite position or course of action.”

Mr McGauran confirmed that New Zealand’s decision to take action in the WTO would not diminish the strong and extensive relationship between such close neighbours.

In accordance with usual practice, the Australian Government will be consulting regularly with relevant stakeholders, including representatives of the Australian apple and pear industries, in relation to this dispute.

Further media inquiries:

Minister McGauran's office: Ben Houston 02 6277 7520