Australia urged to lift ban on PH bananas
The head of the Duterte administration’s economic team is urging Australia to lift its ban on the entry of Philippine banana exports that has been in place for more than two decades now.
“As former minister of agriculture, I will raise with you the issue of the banana imports. We have been working at that for 20 years, probably. And we have not been able to ship to you a single box of bananas,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop during a meeting when the latter visited the country last March 16 to 17, the Department of Finance said in a statement.
Dominguez served as agriculture secretary during the administration of former President Corazon C. Aquino.
The finance chief reminded Bishop that bananas were among the Philippines’ top food exports. “Japan accepts our bananas, China accepts our bananas, even the Middle East accepts our bananas,” he pointed out.
In 2003, the Philippines sought to establish a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute panel to force Australia to allow the entry of imported bananas.
The DOF noted that Australia’s ban on Philippine bananas was “inconsistent with provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade barring countries that are signatories to the pact from imposing non-tariff trade barriers.”
According to the DOF, the Australian government was protecting its domestic banana producers as the Australian Banana Growers Council was opposing banana imports from the Philippines.
In response, the DOF quoted Bishop as saying that the Philippines must first meet Australia’s risk management measures.
In this regard, Bishop said the Australian government could assist Filipino banana producers achieve such standards. “The challenge, I guess with you and for us is for Philippine produce to be able to meet those conditions in order for exports to occur. We can continue to talk about more assistance that we can provide to meet those requirements,” she said.
The DOF said Biosecurity Australia, the inspection and quarantine assessment arm of Canberra’s agriculture department, “has long been imposing stringent phytosanitary and sanitary requirements on Philippine bananas, which have been barred from the Australian market since 1995.”
These requirements included, among others, the need for Philippine banana exports to have eight leaves prior to harvest and the use of non-perforated bags for packing, the DOF added.
In 2016, the Philippines imported $892 million worth of Australian goods, more than the $386 million worth of locally made products it exported to Australia during the year.
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