WTO panel sides with U.S. against Japanese apple import restrictions
A World Trade Organization panel decision released Thursday sided with the United States in its dispute against Japanese restrictions on U.S. apples.
American apples have essentially been banned from the Japanese import market for more than 20 years due to Japan’s fire blight restriction. Fire blight is a fruit tree disease.
The United States said Japan’s fire blight restrictions were unscientific, and estimates that U.S. apple exports to Japan would be $143.4 million annually without the restrictions.
The United States won earlier WTO proceedings against the Japanese restrictions, and in this most recent proceeding challenged the country’s attempts to bring its restrictions into conformity with the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. Japan’s restrictions on U.S. apple imports included a 10-meter orchard buffer zone, orchard inspections, and chlorine treatment of imported fruit.
The United States argued that these restrictions were not based on sufficient scientific evidence or on risk assessment, and therefore were not in line with Japan’s WTO obligations.
The WTO panel agreed with the U.S. position, and affirmed a U.S. argument that any hypothetical concerns regarding the spread of fire blight disease could be addressed by restricting exports of apple fruit to mature, symptomless fruit.
“This is a solid victory for the U.S. apple industry,” said U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman in a statement. “Japan has unfairly used unscientific restrictions to block U.S. apple exports for years.”
If Japan fails to comply with the WTO panel’s recommendations and rulings, the United States would move forward with its request for WTO authorization to impose $143.4 million a year in trade sanctions. This figure would be subject to arbitration at the WTO.