Monday, August 09, 2010

CER's last hurdle

The largest barrier to free trade between Australia and NZ looks like it finally has a good chance of being addressed according to the NZ Herald.

For decades now Australia has blocked imports of New Zealand apples on spurious grounds of biosecurity. I participated in a couple of CER bilaterals in the 1990s where this was the key issue (I was fighting for another sector) and Australia would never relent. CER offered no recourse if Australia kept blocking access other than the political ones. Naturally for NZ, access to Australian markets was far more valuable than for Australia to get access to another market the size of Melbourne (if you're generous).

So the WTO, hated by the Greens and the anti-free trade luddites, has proven its worth once again, by showing up the Australians for being protectionist hypocrites - calling for free trade in agriculture through the Cairns Group at the WTO, but unwilling to offer it to its closest trading partner.

It wont be easy, no doubt the socialist Gillard and farmer friendly Abbott will both reassure Australia's cosseted apple industry that they will appeal, but it's simple - you cannot block New Zealand apples under the excuse that they all contain fireblight and will ruin your precious crop.

So good on the WTO, it needs some words of support, especially since neither the President of the United States nor the "President" of the European Union nor the Prime Minister of Japan have any interest in free trade!

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