- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2002

Red Delicious, Fuji and Granny Smith apples from orchards in the United States rarely show up on Japanese shelves, and American apple growers blame science. Pseudoscience, to be exact.
Bogus Japanese science, say American growers, protects domestic producers from foreign competition by claiming that foreign fruit could introduce a rare plant disease called fire blight into Japan. U.S. producers say regulations to avoid fire blight cost them up to $10 per box of fruit, effectively pricing them out of the world's second-largest economy.
"You can call it what you want, but this science looks like a simple trade barrier to me," said Jim Archer, manager of Northwest Fruit Exporters, a nonprofit group of apple packers in Yakima, Wash., that has tried to export to Japan with little success.
The United States, frustrated by years of delay in opening the Japanese market, last month initiated a case against Japan in the World Trade Organization.
Wrestling with faulty science has become one of the toughest new frontiers for negotiators trying to unlock new markets for American exports. Other countries say the United States also uses scientific claims as leverage in trade, a fact that sometimes harms the credibility of the United States as it attacks the problem, a senior U.S. official said.
"People who work on agricultural trade are spending quite a bit of time on these barriers," said David Orden, a professor of agriculture at Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
A 1996 study by the Department of Agriculture concluded that these restrictions cost the United States $4.9 billion in exports.
The use of faulty science to block trade reflects the enormous success, especially over the past 10 years, in reducing tariffs on farm products, according to agricultural trade officials and agricultural groups.
With that trade barrier gone, countries have sought new ways to stop imports.
By the late 1990s, the Clinton administration found itself swamped with complaints from farmers and ranchers that countries around the world were citing a whole host of different diseases and pests as reasons for keeping out American goods.
"This occurred so gradually as tariff barriers lowered that it was hard for the last administration to focus on these issues in a coordinated way," said Allen Johnson, the special negotiator for agriculture in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
The Bush administration recently persuaded Russia to drop its ban on poultry imports, set in place because Russian officials said American chickens and turkeys were full of bacteria. The United States is still trying to persuade Russia to open up to American beef, which Russia claims could bring in a disease that normally affects horses.
But last fall, the Bush administration also banned all imports of Spanish clementines, small tangerinelike fruit, after inspectors discovered Mediterranean fruit flies on several shipments. U.S. officials said the fly could endanger the citrus industry, which is concentrated in California and Florida.
Officials from the 15-nation European Union, which handles trade policy for Spain, argued for a more limited prohibition and allowed imports into northern states, where the fly cannot live over the winter.
Instead, the United States bumped an entire season of Spanish exports $50 million worth out of the American market, and may do the same this year.
Gerald Kylie, agriculture counselor for the EU in Washington, argued that the United States in this case looks a bit like what it criticizes in Japan.
"The United States works on the principle that to export here, you have to meet [American] standards," Mr. Kylie said.
The case of Japanese apples has vexed American negotiators for nearly a decade. In 2001, American apple exports to Japan were worth $377,000. By comparison, the United States sold $46 million worth to Taiwan, a much smaller country.
The United States has won one case in the WTO against Japan over apples. Before that, Japanese officials required American growers to test each individual variety of apples for plant diseases before they could export, a time-consuming process.
Then came the fire blight problem.
American officials insist that apples which show no sign of fire blight infection cannot spread the disease into Japan. But Japanese regulators demand to inspect each tree in the United States for fire blight, and impose other costly regulations that the Bush administration is now challenging in the WTO.
Mr. Johnson said that the United States cannot always anticipate what barriers other countries will throw up to international trade. Making examples of certain egregious cases may be the best way to avoid similar problems in the future.
"The moment things cross the line to being nothing more than another trade barrier, we're going to call attention to it," he said.

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