3 Sep 2008

NZ argues case on apples at WTO

6:31 pm on 3 September 2008

A World Trade Organisation disputes panel has begun hearing New Zealand's complaint against Australia over continued restrictions on apple exports.

A team of government officials is arguing that the restrictions amount to a trade barrier

Australia banned New Zealand apples for 85 years, citing fears over the disease fireblight.

Two years ago it lifted the ban, when evidence showed fireblight cannot be carried on mature fruit.

However, the Australian Biosecurity Authority imposed such strict conditions after lifting the ban, that the New Zealand Government complained to the WTO, saying they amount to a trade barrier.

The Government argues that Australia has ignored scientific evidence that shows fireblight cannot be carried on mature fruit.

Australia, on the other hand, accuses New Zealand of providing flawed and tenuous legal arguments for allowing apple imports.

Pipfruit New Zealand's chief executive, Peter Beaven, says the Government has assembled an impressive team of trade and biosecurity officials and scientists in Geneva to present New Zealand's case, and he is confident it will succeed.

Peter Beaven says as well as submissions from the New Zealand and Australian Governments, in an unusual move the WTO disputes panel has agreed to hear from the Australian pipfruit industry.

The panel is not due to deliver its decision until June next year.