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An Australian appeal to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against a ruling it must accept our apple exports has failed, according to the NZ Herald.

WTO judges have rejected the appeal, saying the 89-year-old ban on New Zealand apple imports is illegal.

The decision may force Australia to open its market or face possible retaliation.

A WTO panel concluded in August that Australia should lift the ban on apple imports, which has been in place since 1921 to prevent the bacterial disease fire blight from spreading.

Judges in Geneva have backed that decision today, saying Australia should bring its measures into conformity with its obligations.

Should Australia refuse to bring its measures into line with WTO rules, New Zealand could strike back by imposing punitive import duties on Australian goods.

Pipfruit NZ chairman Ian Palmer said he was not suprised Australia had continued to fight hard to keep New Zealand apples out of their country.

“Why wouldn’t they? They’ve done such a good job protecting their industry. They’ve managed to lobby for a long time – that has come to an end.”

Palmer said the two countries still have to negotiate a technical work plan, but expected exports to start by 2012. He believed the market could be worth around $30 million within a short time.

Trade Minister Tim Groser also welcomed the ruling, saying it was good news for New Zealand apple exporters.

Australia is now under an obligation to bring its measures into conformity with its WTO obligations. More at the NZ Herald

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