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WTO settles decades old apple fight


August 11, 2010
By The Canadian Press

Topics

August
10, 2010, Geneva – The World Trade Organization ruled recently that Australia’s
89-year ban on imports of New Zealand apples is illegal, and ordered the
Australian government to comply with international commerce law.



August
10, 2010, Geneva – The World Trade Organization ruled recently that Australia’s
89-year ban on imports of New Zealand apples is illegal, and ordered the
Australian government to comply with international commerce law.

In
a 548-page verdict, the WTO rejected Australia’s arguments that the apple
restrictions are necessary to keep out pests and diseases.

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Still,
New Zealand apples are unlikely to appear on Australian markets any time soon.
The WTO can authorize punitive sanctions against countries that continue to
break trade rules – but usually only after years of litigation – and Australia
can file a number of appeals.

The
ban was first imposed in 1921 to prevent the spread to Australian trees of fire
blight – a disease that damages apple trees and reduces their ability to
produce fruit.

Australia
also has turned away imports because of concerns that New Zealand’s apples
could carry European fruit canker or apple leaf-curling midge.

But
the WTO’s three-member panel found that Australia's ban wasn’t based on a
scientific risk assessment.

The
Australian and New Zealand missions to the WTO declined to immediately comment,
because the WTO’s decision was released before working hours at their trade ministries.

New
Zealand brought the case to the world trade referee in 2007, alleging that 17
Australian requirements for apple imports were illegal.

Although
the apple issue is an irritant, the South Pacific neighbours have one of the
most open economic relationships of any two countries. They traded merchandise
valued at more than $12 billion last year.

New
Zealand claims the apple trade in Australia could be worth up to $6.2 million a
year.


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