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Government Would Defend Zespri Arrangement At WTO

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington Nov 26 NZPA - The Government says it will fight to retain New Zealand's kiwifruit export arrangement, as long as growers want it.

Kiwifruit growers' marketer Zespri has accused commercial rival Turners and Growers (T&G) of attempting to ambush it at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Zespri chief executive Lain Jager wrote to Trade Minister Tim Groser earlier this year claiming that corporate raider Guinness Peat Group (GPG) and its subsidiary T&G had been working with the United States government to get rid of its single desk status.

Mr Groser has described the action as "very unhelpful" but sees it as a commercial dispute and not a free trade issue here. He said the Government would fight any action taken.

"We've got a very strong position here, there are specific rules in the WTO ... but we will pursue our interests within the framework of existing law and we will do it very vigorously and I suspect rather well," Mr Groser told Radio New Zealand.

"It's nothing to do with free trade, it's to do with what is on balance in the interest of New Zealand and what the growers themselves want."

Mr Groser said as long as the large majority of growers continue to support Zespri the Government would.

He believed it was in New Zealand's interest more generally.

"I think New Zealand does need size in international negotiations and I think this is a way of ensuring it."

Mr Groser said it was a commercial dispute dressed up as an issue of principle in trade policy.

"I haven't come down in the last shower. We will defend New Zealand's overall interest and we can leave GPG and Turner's and Growers to pursue their own commercial interest in whatever way they think is in their long term interests."

T&G chairman Tony Gibbs yesterday rejected as "hysterical" concerns that his company has "colluded" with foreign powers in its bid to break Zespri international's control of exports outside Australasia.

He disagreed it was a commercial dispute.

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