WTO rules against Australia on New Zealand apple imports
The World Trade Organization has ordered Australia to change restrictions on imports of New Zealand apples after it found that they were illicit, the WTO said on Monday.
A ruling by WTO's panel of independent arbitrators recommended "that the Dispute Settlement Body request Australia to bring the inconsistent measures... into conformity with its obligations."
Australia banned imports of New Zealand apples in the 1920s, claiming there was a risk of spreading the fireblight apple tree disease to their country.
The Australian government lifted the outright ban in 2006 but imposed conditions so strict that New Zealand said it made its exports uneconomic.
New Zealand claims the disease cannot be spread through clean mature apples and in 2007 it asked the WTO to settle the dispute.
The WTO panel upheld the bulk of New Zealand's arguments challenging the validity of the scientific and risk assessments invoked by Australia for the restrctions, according to the ruling.
Under the WTO's plant and human health rules, any restrictions on trade must be based on a proper assessment of the risks using internationally recognised methods, as well as "relevant" scientific evidence.
New Zealand growers have estimated that exports of apples to Australia could be worth 50 million New Zealand dollars (36 million US) a year.
© 2010 AFP