Smith Presses Fischler On Spreadable BUTTER

  • Dr Lockwood Smith

New Zealand will pursue World Trade Organisation (WTO) dispute settlement measures over spreadable butter, Agriculture & Trade Minister Lockwood Smith said today. Dr Smith was commenting following an otherwise constructive meeting today, with the European Commissions Agriculture Commissioner, Dr Franz Fischler.

Dr Fischler is on a four day visit to New Zealand to examine our experience of agricultural reform and to discuss a range of NZ/EU agricultural trade issues.

I was pleased to have the opportunity to discuss a range of issues of agricultural trade interest with Dr Fischler, including the newly negotiated Veterinary Agreement, reform of the EUs Common Agriculture Policy and New Zealands experience of agricultural reform, Dr Smith said.

During our meeting, I made it very clear to the Commissioner that the New Zealand Government was most concerned at the EUs unilateral decision on the interpretation of the definition of butter, qualifying for quota access.

The decision, which was made without consultation with New Zealand, has affected New Zealands butter access which was negotiated during the Uruguay Round.

Dr Fischler and I agreed that the rules of the WTO provided an appropriate mechanism for resolution of this dispute, the Minister said.

The Government and the NZ Dairy Board have been working extremely hard to resolve this issue. Despite our putting a very strong case, the Commissioner recently confirmed that a technical solution was not possible, leaving no choice but to pursue a WTO dispute settlement.

I also expect that the Dairy Board will initiate action in United Kingdom courts and the European Court of Justice.