Nearly five months after expressing its willingness to help local planters ship bananas to Australia, Canberra said on Thursday that Manila has yet to formally signify its intention to jump-start talks on market access for Philippine bananas.
Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Amanda Gorely said Canberra and Manila have not held discussions to facilitate the return of Philippine bananas to Australia.
Gorely also said Canberra has not even received any formal response from Manila regarding Australia’s import risk assessment report on Philippine bananas.
“We haven’t seen the Philippine government formally respond to that risk assessment, or any Philippine company really seeking to export bananas to Australia under that import risk assessment,” she told reporters in a news briefing in Makati City on Thursday.
“If they wish to export to Australia, then there needs to be a discussion around the compliance with the import risk assessment,” Gorely added.
Gorely said Canberra is open to a dialogue on “alternative measures” that would allow Filipino banana growers and exporters to comply with the phytosanitary requirements of Australia.
“We do take out quarantine very seriously. We do have a level of protection that is high and we do not deny that,” she said. “If the growers or companies want to come up with alternative measures to meet those levels, then we are always willing to consider those.”
Earlier, Gorely said Canberra is willing to assist banana exporters comply with its animal health and plant regulations so they can again access the Australian market, which has been closed to Philippine bananas for more than two decades.
“The Philippines is the only country in the world for which Australia has agreed [that] bananas could be exported. But for that to happen, the Philippines need to meet some risk-management measures, because Australia has its own banana industry and we have some issues around disease control,” Gorely said at the BusinessMirror Coffee Club forum held in Makati City on January 10.
“My view is that Philippine banana producers are not that interested in the Australian market. I repeatedly say, if a Philippine company wants to export to Australia, come and tell me and we will work with them,” she added.
Gorely said Filipino exporters prioritize Asian markets, such as Japan and South Korea, where they have a bigger share, compared to Australia where banana production is sufficient to meet domestic demand.
Last year Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez urged Canberra to allow the entry of Philippine bananas, which have been barred from Australia since 1995.
In October 2002 Manila filed a complaint against Australia at the World Trade Organization for its de facto ban on Philippine bananas. Manila argued that Philippine bananas were no threat to Australian bananas because it does not intend to fill Australia’s entire demand for bananas. To date, the dispute has yet to be resolved.