Tag Archives: quarantine

The canker in quarantine policies

No, it’s not the bitter reaction from the apple and pear lobby to the end of our century-long ban on apple imports from NZ. What else could we expect: thanks to the price (and quality) protection afford by the ban, uncompetitive producers in those industries have been ripping-off the consumer so long we could hardly […]

A great big banana tax

$5 for a banana? At $12 per kg. they’re already $3 a piece. “Australian Banana Growers Council chief executive Jonathan Eccles said yesterday heavy rain and a cold snap since Cyclone Yasi wiped out 75 per cent of the crop in February had slowed banana growth and cut production. “We’ll certainly see wholesale prices increase […]

A great big (banana) tax

Banana prices are a ridiculous $14-15 per kg. for only one reason; the outrageous ban on imports that regularly delivers massive subsidies directly from consumers’ pockets to this tiny group of growers. Australian Banana Growers Council chief executive Jonathan Eccles told The Australian that growers were getting up to $10/kg wholesale. That, he said, was […]

NZ Apples, at last! But…

“THE World Trade Organisation has overturned Australia’s 90-year-long ban on importing New Zealand apples, according to NZ media reports, which are branding the decision ‘a win against Australia” Extract from Australia’s ban on New Zealand apples overturned by World Trade Organisation – report | The Daily Telegraph

The Apples Case should never have arisen because we should have welcomed NZ apples into our market decades ago. It should have been settled immediately by the Australian government at the consultations phase of the WTO dispute. The premiss (‘fireblight’ risk) was implausible and the subject of an earlier, definitive U.S. victory in WTO against similar protection in the Japan-Apples Case.

So, probably, two-cheers for good-sense, the NZ apple industry and Australian consumers.

Whether this is a robust or a pyrrhic victory is still to be seen.The decision (not yet published—so caution is warranted) is appealable by Australia—which could delay the entry of NZ apples onto our market. Also, there is nothing preventing the Australian government eventually adopting import orders just as onerous as the 2007 proposal.

Worse, by the time NZ apples finally hit the Australian shores (nine decades after they first sought entry) they may find that the Chinese have beaten them into the market. It’s enough to make a Kiwi weep!

I’ve argued for years that our Quarantine system was costly, overblown and unnecessarily protectionist. In the past, our quarantine barriers have hurt our rural economy by forcing us to sustain high-cost import-replacement industries (like the banana industry) at the expense of consumers and of more efficient export industries. The latter find their input costs raised by the protection and their export marketing efforts undermined by our trading partners’ scorn of Australian agricultural ‘protectionism’.

Slowly, following WTO pressure (our loss of the egregious Salmon case, in particular); pressure from our trading partners (e.g. in the Quarantine working groups set up under the Australia-USA Free Trade Agreement); criticism from the Federal Court when it reviewed individual cases, and; as a result of independent reviews, the regulations and implementation of our laws have both improved.

But the carefully (even torturously)-prepared decisions of BioSecurity Australia are prey to crass political manipulation—which is what happened to the 2007 decision from BioSecurity Australia (recapitulating a decision first taken in 2000) to approve imports of NZ apples subject to onerous conditions. The Australian Minister at the time, Peter McGuaran, failed to sign-off on the decision (after strong lobbying from the protected Australian industry and against the advice of his own Department and over  the objections of the National Farmers’ Federation) for simply protectionist reasons.

Peru jumps the China FTA queue

This news makes the delay in agreement between Australia and China on an FTA look even more peculiar.

” China and Peru on Tuesday signed a free trade agreement, state media here said, as Beijing continues to seek new markets and reserves of raw materials to fuel its economy… China has become mineral-rich Peru’s second largest trading partner after the United States. Peru is a major producer of lead, zinc, copper, tin and gold.” Extract from AFP (Yahoo)

Why is Australia slipping down the queue? On my calculation, based on the WTO database of regional trade agreements, this is the eleventh FTA that China has signed since it agreed, in 2004, to start negotiations with us. Finishing ahead of us: ASEAN (twice), New Zealand, Pakistan, a group of South Asian economies and now Peru (as well as Hong Kong and Macao that are special cases).

Our free-trade agreement with China was always going to be difficult to pull off.

Interview in the Boao Asia Forum


The top Chinese business daily, 21st Century Business Herald, published several special editions at the recent Boao Asia Forum. Here’s an interview with me on the Australia-China FTA, Australia’s investment policies, quarantine barriers and the future of the Renminbi as a ‘reserve’ currency.

Google Translate takes its best shot here.

Banana ban breached not broken

Only eight years after the ‘import risk assessment’ process started, and three years after cyclone Larry’s decimation of the local crop combined with the import ban pushed average prices up by almost 90%, Australians have at last the—distant but tantalizing—prospect of access to those wicked Philippines bananas.

Not, mind you, without a ‘belts and braces’ set of controls that you would expect for, say, shipments of weapons of mass destruction.