The government of Argentina plans to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization over U.S. barriers to Argentine citrus and meat imports.
The complaint marks the opening of a 60-day period for the U.S. and Argentina to try to resolve the disputed restrictions, according to an Aug. 21 news release from Argentina’s Foreign Ministry. If Argentina is not satisfied, according to the release, Argentina will ask the WTO to create a panel of experts to give their opinion about U.S. restrictions.
Argentina lemons have been shut out of the U.S. market since 2001. Argentina officials claim the trade barriers are unjustified, pointing to Argentina lemon exports to Spain and Italy, other citrus-producing countries.
In 2001, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Coyle, after reviewing the complaint filed by the U.S. Citrus Science Council and California growers against the U.S. Departmant of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, overturned the USDA rule allowing Argentina lemon imports. He also raised questions whether Argentina plant health officials could be relied upon to safeguard U.S. interests.
Argentina’s citrus exporters had shipped about 350,000 cartons of lemons to the U.S. in 2000 and about 1 million cartons in 2001, trade sources said then.
Argentina President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner raised the issues of meat and citrus access to the U.S. market when she met with President Barack Obama in November 2011 and in April 2012, according to the release.
Joel Nelsen, president of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, said that USDA initiated a pest risk assessment on Argentina citrus about five years ago. While doing so, Nelsen said USDA officials found a previously unknown pest to citrus and grapes that Argentine officials had never told them about. That caused progress on the pest risk assessment to stop, he said.
“I don’t know why Argentina believes USDA or U.S. Trade Representative is stonewalling (access to the U.S. market) The problem lies within their borders,” Nelsen said.
Nelsen said it is difficult to say when the USDA will complete work on a new pest risk assessment, but said the citrus industry is not flatly opposed to imports. “We don’t oppose citrus imports unless there is a significant pest or disease issue and there is a lot of imported citrus coming in that speaks to that track record.”