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 expect them to quietly welcome the cold shower of a competitive market.

The canker oozes, instead, from the mooted Nationals-Greens alliance behind a private-Member’s bill from the opposition Agriculture spokesman to restore the prohibition. The odour of old-fashioned protectionism reminds us that leaders of the farming and environmental lobbies (like quite a few union leaders) have no idea of how competition works to our advantage or why consumers are so thoroughly fed-up with their hankering for central planning and social control.

Like other infections, quarantine protectionism tends to spread; so the counter-initiative from Julie Bishop is a foolish idea. It treats the problem posed by the import ban (the loss of our own gains from trade) as if it were merely one of treaty; as if we implement WTO agreements only because they’re law (to be tempered with discretion?). It’s not about the politics, it’s about who gains and who pays. Why must we pay anything to “placate Mr Cobb”?

“We remain committed to the WTO rules-based framework to Australia honouring its international obligations,” Ms Bishop said. “I’m going to ensure that we don’t deviate from that.”

But it is understood she is negotiating with Dr Emerson to find a way to placate Mr Cobb’s concerns by applying further scientific protections to prevent fire blight from spreading to Australia.

Extract from Coalition at odds in battle on apple imports from New Zealand | The Australian

As for the pathetic panic by Australian State governments, seeking to second-guess national quarantine standards… It’s time to inject some reality injected into this debate. WTO found—twice, once on appeal—that our risk-assessment was exaggerated . The real risk to Australian orchards of the transmission of fire-blight from NZ imports is vanishingly small.

To see why, there’s no need to rake-over the convoluted details of AQIS’ risk assessment. Consider, instead, the remarkably similar story of U.S. success in exporting apples to Japan in the face of almost identical claims about fire-blight by protectionist Japanese orchardists. The WTO overturned the Japanese import ban, too, in 2001 and a second time in 2005. Why? Because millions of exported apples exported by the USA to Japan between the early 1980s and 1994 when Japan changed its import regulations had not caused a single case of fire-blight infection in Japan.

Careful experiments by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that the theoretical risk was one infection in 5,000 years of U.S. exports (it was later shown that the risk had been overstated: the value is now believed to be between 1 in 5,000 years and 1 in 750,000 years).

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email is never shared.Required fields are marked *