Australian Trade Minister Craig Emerson on Sunday said allowing New Zealand apples to Australian market is the right move and Australia will be "dead in the water" if it reverses trade liberalization and embraces protectionism.
Under fire over a decision to allow New Zealand apples to enter Australian market for the first time in 90 years, Emerson warned the nation must continue to embrace free trade.
Dr Emerson said 60 percent of Australian agriculture produce is exported and there was a record trade surplus last year.
"If we reverse the trade liberalizing efforts of successive governments and embrace protectionism, we're dead in the water," he was quoted by Sky News on Sunday.
Emerson said the value of Australia's trade with New Zealand is worth around eight billion U.S. dollars, and that not allowing import of New Zealand apples could be extremely damaging for Australian farmers.
"Australian farmers would be exposed to retaliation by New Zealand. New Zealand could retaliate against any Australian products and they would be able to raise their tariffs on Australian goods by up to 100 percent," he said.
New Zealand apples have been banned from Australia since 1919, due to an outbreak of fireblight, a disease affecting fruit trees.
There are concerns lifting the ban on New Zealand apples will threaten the future health of Australia's apple and pear orchards, and lead to the introduction of the fireblight disease.