Australia has published a pest risk assessment (PRA) on apples grown in New Zealand, a country that also has fire blight. This PRA disregards the internationally-affirmed science on fire blight, calling for multiple orchard inspections, chlorine treatment, and other mitigation measures to guard against transmission of this disease. New Zealand is engaged in WTO dispute settlement proceedings with Australia to challenge these unjustified and overly restrictive measures. The U.S. submitted third party comments to those proceedings.
In October 2009, Biosecurity Australia finally published its PRA for Pacific Northwest apples. The Australian PRA included the same overly restrictive fire blight mitigation measures now required for New Zealand apples. The draft PRA does not appear to have taken into account comments submitted earlier by the U.S. government and, if approved, will prevent the commercial export of U.S. apples to Australia.
Australia's proposed measures for U.S. apples are not consistent with its WTO SPS Agreement Article 2 obligations and this inconsistency should be strongly noted and objected to by senior U.S. officials in meetings with the Australians.
Industry requests that the U.S. government continue to fully support New Zealand in its efforts to open the Australian market and requests strong U.S. government comments in response to the Australian PRA on Pacific Northwest apples while the New Zealand dispute process unfolds. In addition, we believe that the U.S. apple market access request should be a subject of discussion by the Standing Technical Working Group on Animal and Plant Health Measures as described under the SPS Chapter of the U.S.–Australia Free Trade Agreement.
Potential Increase in Exports
U.S. apples are not currently exported to Australia. Resolving the phytosanitary barrier in Australia would result in an increase of $5 to $25 million in sales each year.
Australia currently prohibits the importation of pears from the United States due to a number of phytosanitary issues. A key issue is the bacterial disease fire blight. Australia is concerned that this disease might be transmitted to the country’s domestic crops. The U.S. position is that mature, symptomless pears produced under commercial conditions have not been shown to transmit the disease. Research substantiating the U.S. position was published in 2007.