Free trade warning over apples

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An organisation representing New Zealand fruit growers says it probably will not seek markets in Tasmania if the ban on apple imports is lifted.

Biosecurity Australia gave the go-ahead for the importation of New Zealand apples to Australia yesterday.

The Tasmanian Government says it is investigating ways to oppose the importation of New Zealand apples because of the risk of importing the disease fire blight.

Unlike Australia, New Zealand’s apple industry is not free of the disease that affects the growth and appearance of the fruit.

Federal Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, says Tasmania’s island status does not mean it will be able to continue its apple ban.

Mr Emerson told The World Today, Tasmania was bound by the World Trade Organisation’s decision to allow the apple imports like every other Australian State.

He says if Tasmania sought to breach the decision, then the state’s farmers would be subject to retaliation from New Zealand.

“Tasmanian farmers export a lot more than they produce and it would put Tasmanian farmers and mainland farmers in the firing line in a potential trade-war, where New Zealand would be entitled under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules to apply tariffs of up to 100 per cent on our agricultural exports to New Zealand,” he said.

The Premier, Lara Giddings conceeds there is a risk of retaliation from New Zealand if Tasmania maintains the blockade.

“Possible, we’ll have to work through those issues as well but again, what is paramount here is we do not want to have any risk of pests or diseases entering Tasmania that are not here already and undermining, not only our industry, but also our wider Tasmanian reputation and brand,” she said.

Peter Beaven from Packed Fruit New Zealand says his members would be targeting unsaturated markets on the mainland.

But he says regardless of where the New Zealand apples will go, the Tasmanian Government’s opposition to the imports goes against the countries’ free trade agreement.

“Free trade is a two-way street,” he said.

“It’s not a one way street and the Australian officials who are trying to bring political interference in what should be a scientific process need to get out of it and they need to let the science prevail, because that’s what the WTO has decided.”

source:    abc.net.au

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