WTO finds in favour of NZ Apples in Australia case

  • Tim Groser

Minister of Trade Tim Groser has today welcomed the verdict of the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) Panel which he says has found firmly in favour of New Zealand apple growers.

"This is excellent and long awaited news for our apple industry," said Mr Groser.

"The Report represents a solid and very clear win in this long running case. Critically, the report is based on extremely thorough analysis by independent external arbiters - it settles any debate."

New Zealand has been actively seeking access for its apples since 1986 but has been barred as a result of restrictive quarantine measures - the Australians maintaining that the alleged risk of fire blight, European canker and apple leaf-curling midge being introduced has justified their plant quarantine-related measures.

Having exhausted all avenues of dialogue to resolve the issue, New Zealand sought a ruling from the WTO, starting the formal dispute settlement process in 2007.

"The Report released today finds that all sixteen of Australia's quarantine measures along with their current Import Risk Analysis are inconsistent with their legal obligations as a WTO member under the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement."

"The Panel has come to the same conclusion we did some years ago - that Australia's objections to the importation of New Zealand apples are simply not backed by adequate scientific evidence."

"There are some procedural choices ahead of both parties in Geneva before the Panel Report has the force of international law, such as the right of appeal and cross appeal. However, fundamentally the ball is in Australia's court. Obviously we are conscious that this is the middle of an Election Campaign and we will comment only when we have been formally advised of the Australian Government's response.

Putting the substantive issue to one side, this has been an important exercise in demonstrating the maturity of our excellent relationship with Australia. It is a remarkable testimony to that relationship that every single other trade dispute in the last quarter of a century has been resolved bilaterally through consultation - even if it has taken years to resolve some of the tougher issues. This is the only issue for which we have had to use the normal international dispute settlement procedures.

On the basis of discussions that I and other Ministers have had with our Australian counterparts throughout this process, it is clear that both sides have managed this dispute in a professional and measured way. I am confident that this will continue to be the case and look forward to discussing this with the Australian Government after the Australian Election."

For background information http://mfat.govt.nz/Treaties-and-International-Law/02-Trade-law-and-free-trade-agreements/NZ-involvement-in-trade-disputes.php

For full Report http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news10_e/367r_e.htm