INDEPENDENT NEWS

Snakes without passports inevitable under FTA

Published: Wed 20 Nov 2002 05:32 PM
Snakes without passports inevitable under FTA
More snakes would wriggle their way into New Zealand if a free trade deal was agreed with the United States, Green Party Biosecurity Spokesperson Ian Ewen-Street said today.
The United States had clearly indicated it would insist on reduced biosecurity restrictions at the Australian border as a condition of any free trade agreement, Mr Ewen-Street said. "Given that New Zealand is even more desperate to sign a deal, we would be even less likely to resist pressure."
A letter from US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick states that several US agriculture interests have raised serious concerns about Australia's use of sanitary and phytiosanitary (SPS) measures as a means of restricting trade. The letter gives table grapes as an example.
California table grapes were banned from New Zealand following the discovery of black widow spiders in consignments, but the ban was subsequently lifted.
Mr Zoellick's letter also says the US would consult closely with the American agriculture community in developing its position on agricultural issues related to an FTA with Australia, and during negotiations.
Mr Zoellick's letter goes on to say specific US objectives for negotiations with Australia for an FTA would include seeking to have Australia reaffirm its World Trade Organisation commitments on SPS measures and eliminate any unjustified SPS restrictions.
Mr Ewen-Street said: "I'm not against trade, but it should be fair trade. Fair trade includes being able to protect our own unique ecosystems and to protect our own borders against unwanted pests, including snakes and black widow spiders.
"Anything that comes into this country as an alien species has the potential to grossly disrupt New Zealand's unique ecosystems and agriculture industry. If we get a disease like foot and mouth, as a result of opening our borders to free trade, New Zealand would go down the gurgler economically."
In the meantime, Mr Ewen-Street said he would urge the Government to beef up biosecurity checks on sea containers to guard against further snake incursions. "About 60,000 contaminated sea containers arrive in this country every year, and that's 60,000 too many," he said.

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