The European Union is joining talks at the World Trade Organisation aimed at heading off a formal dispute between Australia and the Philippines over quarantine restrictions imposed by Canberra on imports of fresh fruit and vegetables, especially banana and pineapples.

The Philippines claims that Australia is breaking the WTO’s agreements on the Application of Sanitary or Phytosanitary Measures and the Agreement on Import Licensing Procedures in this way.

Brussels has joined these formal consultations as an interested third party, citing its “substantial trade interest” in the matter; if the talks fail, then dispute proceedings will probably result, that could force Australia to liberalise its regulations.