USTR - U.S. Wins WTO Case Against Japan's Restrictions on U.S. Apples
Office of the United States Trade Representative

 

U.S. Wins WTO Case Against Japan's Restrictions on U.S. Apples
Contact: Richard Mills / Ricardo Reyes | (202) 395-3230 07/14/2003


WASHINGTON - U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick announced today that a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel has agreed with the United States that Japan's import restrictions on U.S. apples are not justified and are in breach of Japan's WTO obligations. Japan imposes severe restrictions on imported U.S. apples, allegedly to protect Japanese plants from fire blight, a plant disease. The United States, however, showed that there is no scientific evidence that harvested apple fruit can transmit fire blight, and the panel sided with the United States.

"We welcome the panel's findings that Japan's restrictions on imported U.S. apples violate WTO rules. U.S. farmers grow the world's finest agricultural goods and increasingly depend on foreign markets for their livelihood, and they benefit from a rules-based system like the WTO that ensures that others follow the rules," said Zoellick. "We are committed to ensuring a level playing field for our farmers, and will not accept others' unfounded use of supposed plant health regulations to distort and restrict trade. We will continue to utilize WTO rules to keep markets open for U.S. agricultural exports."

"We applaud the WTO ruling against Japan's restrictive requirements for U.S. apple imports," Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman said. "This action should lead to markedly improved access conditions for U.S. apple growers and allow us to realize the full potential of this important market."

U.S. farmers send more than $390 million worth of world-class apples abroad every year, in particular from Washington State and Oregon. However, Japan's severe fire blight restrictions have essentially blocked our apples from reaching Japanese consumers; for example, U.S. apple exports to Japan were limited to only $377,000 in 2001. Removal of Japan's WTO-inconsistent import barriers would give a boost to U.S. apple farmers by providing the opportunity to increase U.S. exports.

The WTO panel sided with the United States on all of its major claims in this dispute. Specifically, the panel:

- found Japan had acted inconsistently with its WTO obligations by maintaining its import restrictions on U.S. apples without sufficient scientific evidence;

- found Japan had acted inconsistently with its obligation to base the import restrictions on a risk assessment.

Background

Japan claimed that its restrictions on imports of U.S. apples were necessary to prevent introduction of fire blight (a disease that affects plants but not humans) into Japan. However, as the United States pointed out to Japan repeatedly over more than a decade of bilateral talks, there has never been any scientific evidence that harvested apple fruit transmit fire blight. Billions of apples have been exported worldwide, most of which without any measures being imposed to protect against transmission of fire blight. On March 1, 2002, the United States requested WTO dispute settlement consultations with Japan on its fire blight restrictions on imported U.S. apples. Consultations were unsuccessful, and a panel was established on June 3, 2002.

The United States alleged that Japan's fire blight restrictions were inconsistent with various provisions of the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, including Japan's obligation not to maintain import restrictions without sufficient scientific evidence and its obligation to base any import restrictions on a risk assessment. In today's report, the panel agreed with the United States on all of its major claims.

Under WTO rules, both Japan and the United States have an opportunity to appeal today's report.

 
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