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.