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August 7, 2007

Group plans WTO action on Australian prawn ban
ASEAN countries will complain to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) about an Australian ban on prawn imports that they say constitutes an artificial trade barrier, AFP reported August 7.

Both the Australian and the Australian Financial Review newspapers reported that Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) members were preparing action against Australia.

Quoting an unnamed member of a Thai delegation that met Australian food quarantine officials on August 6, the Financial Review said the case could reach the WTO in Geneva as early as October.

The Australian newspaper reported that Australia could be liable for paying compensation of 500 million Australian dollars (US$430 million) a year if it maintained the prawn ban and then lost its case at the WTO.

Australia last month banned raw prawn imports from countries that were not deemed disease-free and imposed restrictions on processed prawns, saying the action was needed to prevent infections from hitting the local industry.

But critics allege it is aimed at protecting the local industry from cheaper imports, primarily sourced from Asia.

Canada successfully used the WTO to overturn a similar ban in Australia on its salmon exports in 2000. AFP


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