Europe will use the excuse of the environment to restrict trade with Australia, last week's Wine Industry Environment Conference heard.

Australia’s handling of the environment was ‘the most serious impediment to trade in the next decade’, Tony Battaglene, director of the Canberra Wine Bureau warned the conference, held in Adelaide on 25 and 26 November.

Australia was in danger of losing out on key export markets unless diligent attention was paid to its environmental practices.

Battaglene later told decanter.com he believed Europe would use ‘pseudo-environmental practices’- simple measures that restrict trade under the badge of environmental protection.

‘Pseudo-environmental practices’ include the requirement of particular markings to demonstrate recyclability, instead of accepting a number of markings, requiring producers to provide environmental information on production methods, demanding eco-labelling and instituting ‘traceability ‘ programmes.

‘The danger of most of these is that they can be enforced differently for domestic producers. For imported products testing programs and audit trails are required, whereas within Europe it is easier for producers to demonstrate compliance.’

Battaglene said consumers in Europe and worldwide are genuinely concerned about global environmental practices, but he thought there was ‘a real risk’ that existing and new environmental legislation could be used as a trade barrier for products entering Europe.

Finally Battaglene said he believed the EU wishes to impose its own environmental practices on the rest of the world regardless of their appropriateness, and it is up to global organisations such as the World Trade Organisation to prevent this type of action.

The conference also heard concerns about the effects of global warming. Senior CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) scientist Kathleen McInnes predicted water scarcity and temperature rises of 0.4c to 2c by 2030. This would affect all grape growing regions leading to decreased wine quality due to an earlier season and faster ripening.

Written by Tracey Barker3 December 2002