USTR - United States Succeeds in Removing Japan’s Barriers to U.S. Apples
Office of the United States Trade Representative

 

United States Succeeds in Removing Japan’s Barriers to U.S. Apples
08/31/2005


Washington -- United States Trade Representative Rob Portman and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns announced today that the United States has succeeded in having Japan finally remove its unjustified restrictions on the import of U.S. apples. Japan’s actions resulted from a dispute won by the United States in the World Trade Organization. The United States and Japan jointly informed the WTO today that Japan’s steps end this decades-long dispute.

"We are very pleased that Japan has eliminated all unjustified import restrictions related to fire blight disease on U.S. apples," stated Ambassador Portman. "Not only will Japan’s decision allow U.S. apple growers an opportunity to export to a new market, but it is also a decision we look to other countries to follow as well."

"Japan's compliance with the final WTO panel finding on the fire blight case represents a clear victory for the U.S. apple industry and for the international trading system," said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. "Resolution of this issue is another clear indication that the WTO process works for America's farmers and ranchers."

On August 25, 2005, Japan issued revised regulations eliminating unnecessary and unjustified measures on U.S. apples resulting from concerns about fire blight, a disease that affects apple trees, but is not found on mature, harvested fruit. Japan eliminated its prohibition of shipping mature fruit from orchards with any fire blight, mandatory orchard inspections, orchard buffer zones and various packing facility requirements. Replacing these measures is a requirement to sample export fruit to ensure they are mature and certify that shipments are free of fire blight disease. Japan also updated the regulations to allow California apples to be exported to Japan. The new regulations were effective as of August 25, 2005. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now finalizing operational procedures for the above-mentioned inspection and certification.

Background:

Japan provides important export opportunities for U.S. apples. However, U.S. apples have effectively been banned from the Japanese market for over twenty years in large part due to Japan's scientifically-unjustifiable fire blight restrictions. Fire blight is a disease unique to fruit trees of the Rosaceae family, resulting in symptoms such as infected flowers and shoots that droop, wither, and die, becoming dry and darkened in color, infected shoots that wither, darken, and die with the potential death of the host plant. The disease, however, is not transmitted on mature, symptomless apple fruit, which is the only kind of apple fruit that the United States exports.

The United States won in earlier WTO proceedings against the Japanese restrictions. Japan=s restrictions on exported U.S. apples included a 10-meter orchard buffer zone, orchard inspections, and chlorine treatment of exported fruit. The United States argued that these restrictions were maintained without sufficient science and not based on a risk assessment, and were therefore inconsistent with Japan=s obligations under the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. The WTO agreed with the U.S. position, in several panel and the Appellate Body reports, including most recently in July 2005 in a WTO compliance review panel proceeding, that restricting exported apple fruit to mature fruit would be sufficient to prevent any hypothetical spread of fire blight.

 
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