Northwest Hort on Australia: a tough nut to crack

10/05/2010 02:36:28 AM
Tom Karst

A series of comments are being received on the federal docket regarding foreign trade barriers. Here is an excerpt of the comment from the Northwest Horticultural Council and Mark Powers. I selected Australia, China and Japan for excerpt here...

Comment from Mark Powers, Northwest Horticultural Council

This is comment on PROPOSED RULE: Request for Public Comments National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers and Reports, etc.

The Northwest Horticultural Council submits these comments to assist the Trade Policy Staff Committee (TCSP) identify significant barriers to U.S. exports for inclusion in the National Trade Estimate Report on Sanitary and Phytosanitary and Standards-Related Foreign Trade Barriers. The NHC’s comments apply to apples (0808.10), pears (0808.20), and cherries (0809.20).
SPS barriers are increasingly employed in many export markets and these complicated technical issues require significant resources and political will to combat effectively. Thank you for taking a close look at some of the most significant SPS trade barriers impacting the export of Pacific Northwest apples, pears and cherries.
Sincerely,

NORTHWEST HORTICULTURAL COUNCIL
Mark Powers
Vice President

AUSTRALIA

APPLES

Phytosanitary Barrier

Pacific Northwest apple growers, packers and shippers have been working to obtain market access to Australia for their fruit for over fifteen years. Australia prohibits the importation of apples from the United States due to a number of expressed phytosanitary concerns. Chief among those concerns is fire blight, a bacterial disease of apple and pear trees known to occur in Pacific Northwest fruit growing regions.

The USDA Agricultural Research Service, in coordination with New Zealand plant scientists, published research which shows that there is no risk of fire blight transmission if exports are restricted only to mature, symptomless commercial apples.

The data associated with this research was submitted to Australia in December 2000. These findings were confirmed by World Trade Organization (WTO) rulings against Japan in 2003 in a similar case against Japan and its import prohibitions against Pacific Northwest apples related to fire blight. (Japan has since removed its fire blight restrictions on U.S. apples).

Australia continues to prohibit the importation of apples from all origins in what might be viewed as a policy designed to protect its domestic apple industry from economic competition.

Australia has published a pest risk assessment (PRA) on apples grown in New Zealand, a country that also has fire blight. This PRA disregards the internationally-affirmed science on fire blight, calling for multiple orchard inspections, chlorine treatment, and other mitigation measures to guard against transmission of this disease. New Zealand is engaged in WTO dispute settlement proceedings with Australia to challenge these unjustified and overly restrictive measures. The U.S. submitted third party comments to those proceedings.

In October 2009, Biosecurity Australia finally published its PRA for Pacific Northwest apples. The Australian PRA included the same overly restrictive fire blight mitigation measures now required for New Zealand apples. The draft PRA does not appear to have taken into account comments submitted earlier by the U.S. government and, if approved, will prevent the commercial export of U.S. apples to Australia.

Australia's proposed measures for U.S. apples are not consistent with its WTO SPS Agreement Article 2 obligations and this inconsistency should be strongly noted and objected to by senior U.S. officials in meetings with the Australians.

Industry requests that the U.S. government continue to fully support New Zealand in its efforts to open the Australian market and requests strong U.S. government comments in response to the Australian PRA on Pacific Northwest apples while the New Zealand dispute process unfolds. In addition, we believe that the U.S. apple market access request should be a subject of discussion by the Standing Technical Working Group on Animal and Plant Health Measures as described under the SPS Chapter of the U.S.–Australia Free Trade Agreement.

Potential Increase in Exports

U.S. apples are not currently exported to Australia. Resolving the phytosanitary barrier in Australia would result in an increase of $5 to $25 million in sales each year.

PEARS
Phytosanitary Barrier
Australia currently prohibits the importation of pears from the United States due to a number of phytosanitary issues. A key issue is the bacterial disease fire blight. Australia is concerned that this disease might be transmitted to the country’s domestic crops. The U.S. position is that mature, symptomless pears produced under commercial conditions have not been shown to transmit the disease. Research substantiating the U.S. position was published in 2007.

Potential Increase in Exports
Resolving the phytosanitary barrier in Australia would result in an increase of less than $5 million in sales each year.

JAPAN

CHERRIES
Phytosanitary Issues

Varietal Approval: Japan individually approves each new variety of fresh cherry following fumigation trials. Although 16 varieties have already been approved, this process continues. USDA has submitted research to Japanese quarantine officials illustrating that the efficacy of methyl bromide treatment does not differ between cultivars (varieties).

Japan should accept that fresh sweet cherries are a single commodity and approve all U.S. varieties for import. The current approval method serves as a trade barrier and restricts trade for newer varieties. There is no scientific basis for Japan’s current position for additional testing for each variety.

Fumigation on Arrival: In 2009, for the first time, the Pacific Northwest exported non-fumigated cherries to Japan under a systems approach. Although unlikely, it is possible that Western cherry fruit fly, (Rhagoletis indifferens), could be detected upon arrival at port of entry. If that occurs, under the work plan, the product must be destroyed or re-exported.

Cherries have been exported to Japan for over 30 years under the methyl bromide fumigation protocol, yet Japan does not allow fumigation on arrival for Western cherry fruit fly. The cherry exporters and importers need to have this option available as the use of the systems approach increases in the coming years. Although the MAFF agency was presented with the efficacy data on methyl bromide fumigation for Western cherry fruit fly many years ago, the United States re-submitted the data last season to Japan's MAFF agency. We request that USTR press for acceptance of methyl bromide fumigation treatment of cherries as a quarantine measure.

Potential Increase in Exports

The value of Pacific Northwest cherry exports to Japan would increase by up to $5 million annually if all varieties of fresh sweet cherries were approved under the current fumigation work plan for U.S. cherries.

APPLES
Phytosanitary Trade Barrier

Japan maintains a fumigation requirement on U.S. apples, which significantly increases the cost and reduces the quality of apples shipped to Japan.

Potential Increase in Exports

In the 2008-09 marketing year, there were no Pacific Northwest apples exported to Japan. If the fumigation restrictions cited above were eliminated, Japan could grow into a $10 million market in the near term and larger in the long term.

PEARS

Phytosanitary Barrier
Japan currently prohibits the importation of pears from the U.S. due to alleged concerns regarding the bacterial disease fire blight. Japan is concerned that this bacterial plant disease might be transmitted to the country’s domestic crops. The U.S. position is that mature, symptomless fruit produced under commercial conditions have not been shown to transmit the disease. Research substantiating the U.S. position was completed in 2007 and is in the hands of USDA/APHIS.

Potential Increase in Exports

Resolving the phytosanitary barrier in Japan would result in an increase of less than $5 million in sales.
Pesticide Maximum Residue Level Sanction Policy

During the past year the U.S. Trade Representative has met with Japanese officials to negotiate changes in the penalty structure for MRL violations. Penalties for violations include initially elevated inspection rates for shippers of the commodity that can be expanded to 100 percent hold and test for the entire commodity group if a second violation occurs. The USTR negotiations resulted in a written agreement that provided substantive relief, but following recent MRL violations it is apparent that Japan has decided to ignore that agreement. We urge USTR to remain engaged on this important issue with Japan.

Potential Increase in Exports

Reaching agreement on an MRL sanctions policy with Japan will not necessarily increase the amount of exports from the U.S. It will help to reduce risk exposure and maintain access to this $55 million to $82 million annual export market for U.S. cherries.

PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

APPLES
Phytosanitary Barriers
The first shipments of apples from Washington State to the People’s Republic of China occurred in June of 1994. Only Red and Golden Delicious apples may be shipped directly to China. Two of the PRC’s phytosanitary barriers described below are neither technically justifiable nor WTO-consistent and should be immediately eliminated.
Fire Blight: U.S. has been seeking access for all varieties of apples since the early 1990s but discussions have been stalled due to China’s unfounded concerns regarding the bacterial plant disease fire blight. With the 2005 WTO decision in favor of the U.S. in its case with Japan on fire blight, and the separate case with Japan regarding varietals, China should now allow all varieties of apples entry.
Moreover, China allows market access for all varieties of apples from other countries, including New Zealand, even though such countries have fire blight.

Post-Harvest Decay Organisms: From 2008 to 2009, several Pacific Northwest apple shippers were suspended from exporting apples to China due to alleged Chinese detections of a post-harvest fungus. These suspensions violate an earlier agreement with China which stipulates that only orchards, not shippers, will be suspended for quarantine issues. There have also been numerous questions regarding the veracity of the reported pest interceptions.

This issue figured prominently at the 2009 USDA-AQSIQ plant health negotiations in Shanghai. At that meeting, China committed to only suspend orchards and not shippers; however, a month later, China again sent notifications suspending shippers.
These actions are unacceptable. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has petitioned the Chinese government to reinstate suspended packing houses, citing insufficient evidence of pest presence, possible confusion over what was actually detected, and APHIS’ failure to detect the disease in orchards in which the lots originated.
China should uphold its commitments to the U.S. and immediately reinstate the suspended shippers. In the future, China should only take actions against orchards when there is concrete evidence of a legitimate pest find.
Furthermore, China should not use suspensions as a political tool to extract quarantine market access concessions from the U.S., as has happened in the past.

Potential Increase in Exports
Obtaining market access for all apple varieties and resolving the post harvest fungal quarantine concern should result in an increase in sales of $5 million to $25 million in the near term.

PEARS
Phytosanitary Barrier
The People’s Republic of China currently prohibits the importation of pears from the United States due to an alleged quarantine concern with respect to the bacterial disease fire blight. China is concerned that this bacterial plant disease might be transmitted to the country’s domestic crops. Mature, symptomless pears do not transmit this plant disease. Research published in 2007 by faculty at Oregon State University substantiates this claim. China should open its market to U.S. pears.
In cooperation with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Foreign Agricultural Service, the NHC has been actively seeking access for pears to the PRC’s market since 1991 and following bilateral technical meetings in Shanghai, China July 14-16, 2009, the PRC finally provided its pest risk analysis on U.S. pears. Back and forth technical exchanges are now underway to address the PRC’s stated quarantine concerns.
China has access to U.S. markets for its Ya pears and Fragrant pears and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is now in the process of reviewing access to the U.S. for Chinese Sand pears.

Potential Increase in Exports
The Pear Bureau Northwest estimates that direct access to China will allow Pacific Northwest pear growers to initially export between 100,000 and 150,000 cartons of fresh pears, valued at up to $2 million, to that country per year. Growers in our region produce pear varieties not grown in China including some red varieties that should prove to be very popular in China’s major cities. Red and green Anjou pears and the Starkrimson are the varieties that hold the most promise.



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