The WTO’s dispute settlement panel on Tuesday agreed with the U.S. that Japan’s required plant quarantines for testing apples and other produce is effectively a trade barrier.In its final report on the so-called apple dispute, the panel of the Geneva-based World Trade Organization told Japan to simplify its practice of demanding quarantine data for tests performed on each variety of an imported commodity, because there is no scientific evidence to support such tests.The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries immediately said it would appeal the ruling, saying the same day that they found it unacceptable. The ministry said it may file a complaint with a higher WTO body in the next 60 days.The average Japanese consumer may benefit if the findings in Tuesday’s report are upheld, due to the increase in inexpensive fruit that would hit the high-priced Japanese fruit market.Japan is importing two apple varieties from the U.S., but the U.S. has been wanting to export five more types, all of which require quarantine testing under Japan’s present regulations. Testing of each variety takes a minimum of two years and is extremely costly for U.S. producers, according to the United States Trade Representative.A loosening of such regulations would let less less-expensive walnuts, apples, cherries, and nectarines flow in from Europe, the U.S., and several Asian countries.The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in Washington said in a statement issued after the ruling that the variety-by-variety testing requirement is more “trade-restrictive than required and is non-transparent,” applauding the WTO for its ability to tell the difference between scientifically unjustifiable testing procedures and “thinly veiled protectionist measures.”
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