20 August, 2007
NZ to take Australia to WTO over apple access
The Government will initiate WTO dispute settlement proceedings against Australia to resolve the long-standing apples dispute, Trade Minister Phil Goff and Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton announced today.
“We have made every effort over many years to resolve this issue bilaterally. But we have said that if the bilateral route could not deliver commercially meaningful access for our apples, then WTO dispute settlement would be the only option left. Regrettably, we have now reached that point”, the Ministers said.
New Zealand had been working with Australia to determine how New Zealand would meet in practice the conditions specified in the Final Import Risk Analysis (IRA) for New Zealand apples access, which was released in November last year.
“There is no doubt that the Final IRA imposed a very restrictive regime for our apple exports and requires measures that are not scientifically justified.
“We will be challenging those measures in the WTO, which has already held that measures imposed by Japan for fire blight were not justified for trade in commercial apples.
“Despite our concerns, we had wanted to explore what access might be available under the terms of the IRA by working with Australia on detailed Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).
“We were disappointed with the delays that have taken place in finalising the SOP on the Australian side. New Zealand officials provided all of the information requested by Australia to allow them to complete the SOP in June.
“Since then, however, there have been more delays including a last minute “technical experts’ workshop” that was convened by Australia on 3 August. We are still waiting for feedback from this meeting.
“In any event, the draft SOP as it is currently stands could not deliver commercially meaningful access for our growers.
“Nonetheless, it certainly remains open to Australia to come back to us at any time if it has a proposal that would provide for a mutually satisfactory resolution to the issue.
“We must keep this issue in perspective and see it in the context of the $16 billion two-way trade between our two countries. Although apples access has been an irritant in the relationship, it cannot and should not overwhelm the enormous contribution both countries make to each others’ trade and well-being which will continue”, the Ministers said.
New Zealand will now shortly request formal consultations with Australia under the WTO dispute settlement mechanism. This would be the first step to independent arbitration of the dispute. It could be a lengthy process as WTO dispute cases can take between 2 and 6 years at the outside to resolve.