IN a move which threatens over €1bn of Irish exports to China, the Asian country says it is to impose emergency quarantine measures from October on all wood packing containers from the EU.
Under the measures, wood packing used in EU imports has to be free of all bark and must be heat-treated, fumigated or undergo other forms of approved treatment. The measures threaten about €600m of Irish exports to Hong Kong and a further €400m to mainland China. Exports to Taiwan will not be affected. The Chinese are worried that their forests will be contaminated by a range of pests found in wood packing from Europe, including insects such as longhorn beetles, bark beetles, post beetles and white ants. Mr John Whelan, chief executive of the Irish Exporters Association, warned the measure would "seriously disadvantage many exporters out of Ireland and tend to favour US exporters and other non-EU exporters." It puts at risk over €1bn exports from Ireland to China, Mr Whelan claimed. He believes the October deadline is far too tight for Irish exporters to comply with in time. Mr Whelan called on Tanaiste Mary Harney to use her influence to have the EU Commission Director General for Trade immediately enter into negotiations to defer the introduction until 1 January 2003. Ideally he would prefer Ireland to look for a derogation from the restrictions and since taking over as Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment, Ms Harney would have a key role to play in securing such a derogation. Irish exports to China have grown rapidly since Taoiseach Bertie Ahern paid a visit to the country in 1998 and this was followed by the opening of Ireland House in Beijing, a support office for Irish exporters established by Enterprise Ireland. In 2001, a senior trade delegation led by Ms Harney was also successful in boosting trade levels between Ireland and China. Under the terms of the restrictions announced yesterday all exports from the EU will have to carry either a special sanitary certificate or be entirely free from wood packing. Mr Whelan said the Chinese authorities have already confirmed that they will carry out random inspection and quarantine on all EU imports. The imports must also be accompanied by a certificate issued by the official quarantine authorities in the source country proving that they have passed the relevant treatment. (c) The Irish Independent Pat Boyle
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