Australia loses WTO apple appeal against NZealand

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Australia lost an appeal on Monday against a World Trade Organization ruling which ordered Canberra to change restrictions on imports of New Zealand apples.

"The Appellate Body upheld the panel's findings that ... Australia's measures regarding fire blight and apple leafcurling midge, as well as the general measures, are inconsistent," the WTO's appeal body said in a statement.

The WTO had earlier found that Australia's restrictions on New Zealand apples dating from the 1920s breached global rules.

Australia introduced the ban in the early 1920s over an outbreak of fire blight, a disease affecting fruit trees.

Canberra lifted the outright ban in 2006 but imposed such strict conditions that New Zealand said it made its exports uneconomic, leading to the WTO complaint in 2007.

In its ruling, the WTO backed most of New Zealand's claims that Australian quarantine measures breached world trade rules.

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 estimate exports to Australia could be worth 36 million US dollars a year.

© 2010 AFP

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