WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The United States threatened Monday to impose $143.4 million in trade sanctions on Japan for its alleged failure to soften quarantine standards on U.S. apple imports in accordance with World Trade Organization rulings.

The U.S. asked a WTO panel to review whether Japan has complied with earlier WTO rulings against its restrictions on imported U.S. apples, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said in a statement.

The U.S. is seeking WTO authorization to impose sanctions on Japan totaling an annual trade value of up to $143.4 million the approximate amount of annual harm to the U.S. economy caused by Japan’s restrictions on U.S. apples, Zoellick said.

“American apple growers have been blocked from the Japanese market,” he said. “That’s wrong. The United States does not believe that Japan has brought its measure into compliance with WTO agreements.”

In March 2002, the United States lodged a complaint about Japan’s quarantine requirements for fire blight, a bacterial disease that causes apple trees to develop burnlike symptoms before killing them.

The WTO issued a ruling in favor of Washington in November.

It said the Japanese quarantine requirements are scientifically unfounded, and required Japan to soften the measures.

In response, Japan issued a revision to its quarantine measures June 30, the date the deadline for Japan to implement the WTO decision expired.

“The revised restrictions are little changed from the original restrictions found to be inconsistent by a WTO panel,” Zoellick said. “We won’t be satisfied until there is a level playing field, and that’s why we are moving to assert our WTO rulings.”

Japan continues to require various restrictions, including orchard inspection and buffer zones between infected trees and trees with apples for exports to Japan, he said.

Japan to fight back Japan will ask the World Trade Organization to ignore a U.S. plea for permission to slap punitive duties on Japanese goods, the farm minister said Tuesday.

The U.S. wants to implement such duties in retaliation for what it sees as Japan’s refusal to soften its quarantine norms on U.S. apples.

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