• Kyodo

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Japan and the United States were unable to bridge their differences over Japan’s apple quarantine rules in bilateral talks Thursday in Geneva, trade sources said.

After the talks, U.S. officials said they will consider their next move, indicating Washington will ask the World Trade Organization to set up a dispute-settlement panel to resolve the disagreement.

The talks were held at the request of the U.S., which says Japan’s inspection procedures for fire blight disease in apples are too strict and violate the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) pact.

Japan lifted its ban on apple imports from the U.S. in 1994 on condition that all apples bound for Japan be grown in orchards that have a 500-meter buffer zone separating them from other apple orchards.

Farm ministry officials have defended the inspection procedures as not violating the SPS agreement, calling them necessary to prevent the outbreak of fire blight disease.

Fire blight, which is harmless to humans, is a highly contagious disease in apples and pears and is caused by a plant-eating bacterium.

It is present in the U.S., New Zealand and some other countries but has not been found in Japan.

The SPS agreement allows WTO member nations to take appropriate quarantine steps to prevent the spread of diseases through trade of vegetables, fruit and meat.

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