US, Japan Face-Off in Major Fruit Fight
USTR asks the WTO to review Japan's compliance with a ruling to open its market to US-grown apples
WASHINGTON, DC - 07/22/04 - The US has asked a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel to review whether Japan has complied with earlier WTO rulings against the country's restrictions on imported US apples.
The US is also seeking authorization from the global trade body to impose trade sanctions against Japan totaling more than $143 million.
"American apple growers have been blocked from the Japanese market and that's wrong," said US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick (USTR).
Japan, he said, "continues to require various restrictions, including orchard inspection and buffer zones. The revised restrictions are little changed from the original restrictions found to be inconsistent by a WTO panel?and we won't be satisfied until there is a level playing field, and that's why we are moving to assert our WTO rights."
Japan consumes almost 805,000 tons of apples annually, but imports only about 110 tons a year, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
Representatives from Japan and the US met on several occasions to discuss Japan's implementation of the WTO decision, most recently on June 15.
Japan issued a revision to its measure on June 30, the date the agreed-to RPT - or "reasonable period of time" - mandated by the WTO expired.?
In its request seeking authorization to impose trade sanctions against Japan, the US asked for a go-ahead to increase tariffs on an as-yet-undisclosed list of Japanese products with an annual trade value of up to $143.4 million, which, the USTR said, is the approximate amount of "annual harm" to the US economy caused by Japan's restrictions on US apple exports.
Under an agreement with Japan, the US would not suspend trade concessions until an arbitrator has confirmed the level of trade harm suffered by the US.
The WTO case stems from Japanese rules meant to prevent the spread of fire blight, a bacterial disease that kills blossoms, shoots, limbs and occasionally entire trees.
Japan requires orchard inspections, chlorine treatment and other regulations the WTO said are not scientifically based.
Last December, the WTO determined Japan's restrictions are scientifically unfounded and violate trade obligations after the US successfully argued that mature symptom-less apples - the only apples exported from the US to Japan - are not vectors for the fire blight bacteria.
The request for authorization to suspend trade concessions includes a list of potential product categories from which the US could draw in selecting specific products that will be subject to increased duties.
According to Zoellick, a notice in the Federal Register seeking public comment on a specific list of Japanese products that would be impacted by the US sanctions will be published "in the near future."
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