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
"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.
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
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