The chances of fresh U.S. pears gaining admittance to China have increased significantly following recent bilateral talks.

At a meeting between U.S. and Chinese officials in September, the two countries signaled their willingness to agree on terms, which could open the door for exports in 2013-14, said Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of Pear Bureau Northwest, Milwaukie, Ore.

“It’s very exciting,” Moffitt said. “This is the closest we’ve been in nearly 20 years to getting access to that market. It’s not a done deal, but I’m optimistic.”

The U.S. pear industry has been trying to gain access to China since 1994, Moffitt said. One major sticking point has been Chinese concerns over fire blight. A study published two years ago showed that fire blight cannot be carried on fruit, and Chinese government officials seem to have accepted those findings.

In exchange for China agreeing to allow U.S. pear imports, the U.S. will green-light a third Chinese-grown Asian pear, the sand, for shipments to the U.S., Moffitt said. The U.S. currently imports ya and fragrant Asian pears from China.

Assuming that the deal goes through, U.S. shippers could export up to 60,000 boxes of pears to China next season, Moffitt said.

Those numbers would likely rise, and by about 2016 or 2017, China could be a top 10 export market for U.S. shippers, he said.

Red pear varieties will be a particularly big hit among Chinese consumers, Moffitt said. In addition to red pears, U.S. shippers will likely ship green anjous to China, he said.