State congressional delegation: Open Japanese markets to Washington apples

By:  Bridget Mire
Source: The Wenatchee World

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Dan Newhouse are leading the state congressional delegation in asking the Trump administration to seek access for Washington apples to Japanese markets.

In a letter Tuesday to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the delegation called out Japanese policies that have restricted apple growers from shipping to that country. 

“Washington state apple growers produce roughly 67 percent of the apples grown in the United States and are responsible for approximately 90 percent of exports,” the letter reads in part. “Our growers have long sought meaningful access to the Japanese market. Unfortunately, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) policies imposed by Japan have drastically inhibited their ability to ship apples to this high-priority market for decades.” 

Japan relaxed some policies in a 2003 World Trade Organization dispute resolution case brought by the U.S. However, the delegation noted, the policies still in place are “costly and logistically challenging.” 

“We fully support the rights of countries to enact science-based measures to protect against the importation of pests and diseases that can be harmful to their domestic agricultural industries,” the letter says.  “However, pest and disease concerns not supported by science are often used as an excuse to impose overly restrictive requirements on imports that are intended to serve as market barriers and protect domestic industries against foreign competition.” 

That’s against international trade rules, the delegation said. 

In April 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service submitted a proposal to Japan that would address pest concerns through actions taken in the apple growing, packing and shipping processes. Japan has not responded.