STC Number - 74

Restrictions on imports of tropical fresh fruit

Maintained by: Australia
Raised by: Philippines
Supported by: Brazil; European Union; India; Korea, Republic of; Malaysia; Thailand; United States of America
First date raised: March 2000 G/SPS/R/18 para. 67
Dates subsequently raised: June 2000 (G/SPS/R/19 paras. 15-20)
Number of times subsequently raised: 1
Relevant documents: G/SPS/GEN/189 G/SPS/GEN/194 WT/DS270/1; G/SPS/GEN/345 WT/DS270/5/Rev.1; WT/DS271/1; G/SPS/GEN/346
Products covered: 0803 Bananas, including plantains, fresh or dried.; 0804 Dates, figs, pineapples, avocados, guavas, mangoes and mangosteens, fresh or dried.; 0810 Other fruit, fresh.; 080430 - Pineapples
Primary subject keyword: Plant Health
Keywords: Good Offices/Consultations/Dispute Settlement; Plant health; Risk assessment
Status: Not reported
Solution: DSU consultations requested on 18 October 2002 (DS270 and DS271). Panel (DS270) established 29 August 2003. Composition pending
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In March 2000, the representative of the Philippines brought to the attention of the Committee its serious concern with the restrictive phytosanitary measures applied by Australia to certain tropical fresh fruits. Major Philippine exports including mangoes, bananas and pineapples, which were widely accepted by other importing countries, continued to face restrictions in Australia. It seemed that Australian regulations refused to recognize the phytosanitary protocol, which, following rigorous scientific tests, had been considered adequate by other countries. The Philippines believed that Australia's phytosanitary measures effectively rendered access to the Australian market for these products difficult, if not impossible. Bilateral informal consultations were being held on the matter. The representative of Australia confirmed that consultations were being held. He clarified that in response to a request for access, Australia conducted an open, transparent and consultative process of scientific risk assessment and risk management with a view to minimizing the risk of introduction of diseases not currently present in Australia. The representatives of Thailand and Malaysia also expressed concern regarding Australia's phytosanitary measures on tropical fresh fruit imports. Thailand had had bilateral consultations with Australia, and would continue an exchange of views.

In June 2000, the representative of the Philippines pointed out that major ASEAN exports, which were widely accepted by other importing countries, faced restrictions in the Australian market. He suggested that for some fruits, Australia's stringent SPS measures were being applied without an accompanying risk assessment and that many Australian measures were more trade restrictive than necessary (G/SPS/GEN/194). Emphasizing that such restrictions should be reviewed within a reasonable period of time, the representative expressed concern that Australia seemed to regard this provision as a matter of scheduling and not as an objective standard of "reasonable period of time." The representative of Malaysia suggested that Australia conduct ASEAN-wide risk analyses, given ASEAN countries' similar pest profiles.

The representative of Australia offered initial detailed comments on each of the points raised by the Philippines (G/SPS/GEN/189), and noted that a formal response would be provided in due course. He further stressed that Australia fully accepted it obligations under the Agreement, and considered the "reasonable period of time" provision as a substantive commitment. In response to the Malaysian suggestion, the representative of Australia explained that a pest risk analysis was by definition specific to any two trading partners and that the results of such analyses would differ between exporting countries according to their pest status. Nevertheless, he indicated a willingness to conduct ASEAN-wide risk analyses if it was the most efficient way of evaluating the pest and disease risks.

The representative of the United States also expressed concerns with Australia's decision making process. The US delegation noted that decisions to adopt SPS measures, based on risk assessment, must be completed in a responsive manner. He urged Australia to expedite its decisions regarding US applications for market access for Florida citrus and California table grapes. The representative of Australia replied that an import risk analysis for Florida citrus was underway but that it had been stalled several times because the relevant pest area had been unstable. With reference to the US application regarding California table grapes, he noted that an import risk analysis (including draft and final risk analyses) had been completed, that there had been several appeals, and that the Australian government had addressed the appeals and was about to release relevant information.

Korea, Brazil, India and the European Communities also expressed interest in Australia's SPS policies. In response to Brazil's comments regarding its market access applications for mango and papaya, the representative of Australia confirmed that these were on the list of matters to be considered by Australian risk analysts. With reference to India's concern about market access for mangoes, he reported that Indian authorities had provided helpful information to Australia regarding the efficacy of treatment for pests in mangoes, and that Australia was currently evaluating that information. Regarding EC concerns, he confirmed that an import risk analysis was being conducted on bulbs but he was unaware when the analysis might be completed.

The representative of Australia further commented on some issues which arose during the Risk Analysis Workshop that had preceded the Committee's meeting. Regarding the time it takes to conduct an import risk analysis, particularly in view of the number of access requests that many countries received, he noted that in the dispute resolution cases regarding application of the Agreement, importing Members were found to have an obligation to prepare risk assessments and, at least in Australia's experience with the salmon case, the expected standard for risk assessment was extraordinarily high. The representative noted that Australia had about 40 staff working on SPSrelated matters, which required a lot of financial and management resources. He questioned whether other Members were capable of providing similar resources for carrying out risk analysis to a standard that would survive scrutiny in a WTO dispute.

The representative of Australia also addressed the issue of assigning priorities to market access requests. Recognizing that Members are obliged to deal with requests in a reasonable period of time, while taking into consideration all of the obligations embodied in the Agreement (in particular Articles 2, 3, 5 and especially 5.7), he noted that many Members were faced with far more access requests than could be dealt with instantaneously. In the case of Australia, although it was dealing with access requests from Members as fairly and quickly as possible, it was not possible to satisfy every Member instantaneously. Finally, the representative reminded the Committee that Australia had suggested in the past that the Committee discuss the subject of priority-setting.