USDA: Japan is blocking U.S. apples

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WASHINGTON – The United States initiated a case May 10 at the World Trade Organization against Japan for unfairly restricting imports of American apples.

The case claims Japanese refuse to import almost any American apples even though the apples are certified as safe by U.S. authorities.

Not so. Joint U.S.-Japanese scientific research has demonstrated that the apples are free of fire blight, a plant bacterial disease that Japan claims is the basis of its plant restrictions on U.S. imports.

For many years, the United States has sought to increase access for U.S. apples in the Japanese market, but to no avail.

In pursuing a case at the WTO, the United States will argue that Japan is violating international trade rules by blocking American apples without any scientific or health basis.

“U.S. farmers want to sell our world class apples to Japanese consumers, but they are being blocked,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick. “The United States has gone to great lengths to find a scientifically based resolution to this issue. Unfortunately, Japan refuses to modify its onerous import restrictions, despite scientific evidence that they are safe.”

About fire blight. Fire blight affects certain types of plants, including pear and apple trees, but does not affect humans. Scientific evidence demonstrates that mature, symptomless apples are not carriers of fire blight.

The United States exports $393 million of apples worldwide with few restrictions for fire blight.

Japanese restrictions limited U.S. apple exports to Japan to only $377,000 in 2001.

In comparison, the United States exports $46 million worth of apples to Taiwan.

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