Tinned fruit exporters reject Australian tariffs

Major tinned fruit and tomato exporting nations including South Africa, Chile and the European Union have dismissed the prospect of emergency tariff protection for Australia’s tinned fruit and tomato industry.

The Australian food processing industry gave evidence at a Productivity Commission inquiry in Canberra sighting that a significant decline in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley region was a linked to a sudden increase in imported product, and therefore, the industry should be able to achieve emergency WTO safeguards.

However the exporting nations argue that the strict criteria stipulated by the WTO has not been met, and that the application for emergency tariffs was completely unjustified ABC Rural reports.

Andrea Nicolaj, leader of the European Union delegation said that although imports of Italian tomatoes are quite high, there was not a sudden increase in the supply of the product.

"There was an increase between 2011-2012 of 12 per cent, but in recent months there's been a decrease of 2 per cent, and over the last years, I would say the level of imports has been relatively steady," he said.

"What is confusing, is that the data and statistics supplied by SPC Ardmona refer to sales data; not import data, but sales data.

"We don't think that's adequate to base safeguard measures on statistics which are not official statistics."

South Africa has also dismissed the Australian industry’s application, suggesting that SPC Ardmona’s decline in sales was not due to imports, and Chile has stated that introduction of tariffs could potentially damage trade relationships between the two countries.

"It seems that they are suffering injury not via the imports, at least from a South African perspective, and it may be that it's not imports causing any injury," said Rian Geldenhuys of South Africa's canning industry association.

"Perhaps [it's actually] not very good strategic decisions being taken by SPC Ardmona at certain stages within their corporate history."

Additional submissions with the possibility to hold further hearings will be left open until September when the commission’s interim report is due.

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