STC Number - 439

US import restrictions on apples and pears

Maintained by: United States of America
Raised by: European Union
Supported by:
First date raised: March 2018 G/SPS/R/90 paras. 3.13-3.14
Dates subsequently raised: July 2018 (G/SPS/R/92/Rev.1 paras. 4.36-4.37)
November 2018 (G/SPS/R/93 paras. 3.74-3.75)
March 2019 (G/SPS/R/94 paras, 3.100-3.101)
July 2019 (G/SPS/R/95 paras. 4.99-4.100)
November 2019 (G/SPS/R/97/Rev.1 paras. 3.67-3.68)
June 2020 (G/SPS/R/99 paras. 3.292-3.295)
Number of times subsequently raised: 6
Relevant documents: Raised orally
Products covered: 0808 Apples, pears and quinces, fresh.

Apples and pears
Primary subject keyword: Plant Health
Keywords: Undue delays; Certification, control and inspection; Control, Inspection and Approval Procedures; Plant health
Status: Not reported
Solution:
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In March 2018, the European Union raised a concern regarding the US import restrictions on apples and pears, explaining that for many years it had market access to the United States through a pre-clearance inspection system. However, very limited EU exports had taken place due to the costly nature of the pre-clearance system. As an alternative, the European Union had applied in 2008 to export apples and pears to the United States under a systems approach. Despite finalizing the scientific and technical work in 2014, there had been lengthy delays in the US approval procedure. The European Union indicated that the last administrative step, which was to publish the final rule, had been put on hold by the United States, resulting in blocked trade of apples and pears from the European Union. The European Union noted that this was inconsistent with the SPS Agreement, particularly in relation to avoiding undue delays in approval procedures. The European Union urged the United States to respect its SPS obligations and to allow the immediate start of trade of apples and pears under a systems approach.

The United States indicated that there had been considerable progress on the several requests from the European Union to establish and expand access for its apple and pear exports to the US market. In 2010, seven EU member States (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain) had requested access to the US market using a systems approach and an additional request had been submitted by Poland in 2014. The United States explained that the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) had published a proposed rule in 2016 to authorize imports of apples and pears from eight EU member States under a systems approach that minimized pest risk. Comments received from the public on the proposed rule were currently being evaluated, following which the final rule would be published. The United States indicated that it had been responsive to the EU requests, as it had conducted site visit audits of apple and pear production sites in four of the eight EU member States, in addition to finalizing the work plan. The United States further explained that both of these activities were normally conducted only after the publication of the final rule. The United States noted that it would continue to provide regular updates to the European Union and its member States on the status of the rulemaking process.

In July 2018, the European Union reiterated its concern regarding the US import restrictions on apples and pears, and regretted that it had not received confirmation on the final phase of the applications of eight EU member States to export apples and pears to the United States under a systems approach, despite many years of joint technical work. The European Union added that in practice the US pre-clearance system hindered EU exports, as demonstrated by the limited volumes exported from the European Union to the United States. As an alternative, in 2008 the European Union had applied to export apples and pears to the United States under a systems approach, to replace the pre-clearance system. The last administrative step towards the adoption of the final rule by the US Administration had been pending for over one year without scientific justification, which was inconsistent with the SPS Agreement, particularly in relation to avoiding undue delays in approval procedures. The European Union requested the United States to respect its obligations and to allow trade of apples and pears to start immediately under the agreed systems approach conditions, to immediately publish the final rule, and to communicate to the European Union the planned date for adoption.

The United States highlighted the considerable progress made on several requests by the European Union to establish and expand access for EU apple and pear exports to the US market. The United States explained that the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) had published a proposed rule in 2016 to authorize imports of apples and pears from eight EU member States (Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium and Poland) under a systems approach that minimized pest risk; and that in 2017, it had conducted a site visit to several of the EU members States included in the proposed rule. The United States had worked with the European Commission and interested members States to finalize the work plan to implement the regulatory changes in the proposed rule, and hoped that USDA APHIS would publish the final rule soon. Finally, the United States highlighted that EU exports of apples and pears to the United States had exhibited a rising trend since 2012.

In November 2018, the European Union reiterated its concern regarding the US import restrictions on apples and pears under the systems approach and regretted that the United States had not provided a solution to this matter. The European Union recalled that since 2007 the European Union had been able to export apples and pears to the United States under the pre-clearance system. The European Union further explained that in practice, the US pre-clearance system hindered EU exports, as demonstrated by the limited volumes exported from the European Union to the United States. The quantity had even further decreased in recent years. As an alternative, in 2008 the European Union had applied to export apples and pears to the United States under a systems approach, to replace the pre-clearance system. The European Union noted that preparatory work had been finalized in a satisfactory manner, addressing phytosanitary concerns. However, the last administrative step towards the adoption of the final rule by the US Administration had been pending for over one year without scientific justification, which was inconsistent with the SPS Agreement, particularly in relation to avoiding undue delays in approval procedures. The European Union underscored that there were no phytosanitary justifications for postponing the publication of the final rule. Furthermore, the European Union noted that the United States had not provided details on the timing for the publication of this rule. The European Union requested the United States to respect its obligations and to allow trade in apples and pears to start immediately under the agreed systems approach conditions and to immediately publish the final rule. The European Union reiterated its willingness to continue to work with the United States to find a solution on this matter.

The United States highlighted the considerable progress made on several requests by the European Union to establish and expand access for EU apple and pear exports to the US market. The United States explained that the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) had published a proposed rule in 2016 to authorize imports of apples and pears from eight EU member States (Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium and Poland) under a systems approach that minimized pest risk; and that in 2017, it had conducted a site visit to several of the EU members States included in the proposed rule. The United States had worked with the European Commission and interested member States to finalize the work plan to implement the regulatory changes in the proposed rule, and hoped that USDA APHIS would publish the final rule soon. The United States also reported that since 2013, exports of pears and apples from the United States to the European Union had continued to increase. Finally, the United States highlighted its commitment to transparency.

In March 2019, the European Union reiterated its concern regarding US import restrictions on apples and pears under the systems approach. The European Union explained that technical work had been finalized several years ago in a mutually satisfactory manner, but the administrative step of publication of the final rule had been pending for over two years.

The United States updated the Committee on the work of APHIS with the European Commission and member States authorities to implement the regulatory changes in the proposed rule. The United States hoped it would soon be in a position to complete the publication of the final rule. It reiterated its commitment to transparency and would thus continue to share relevant information through bilateral channels. The United States noted that the European Union had been exporting apples and pears to the United States since 2013.

In July 2019, the European Union regretted that the United States had concluded the necessary risk assessment for the import of apples and pears from the European Union several years ago, but that trade had not been allowed to resume. The final administrative step of publishing the relevant rule, had been blocked. The United States had previously noted that the European Union had been exporting apples and pears to the United States since 2013, but the European Union regretted that those exports had only been authorised under a pre-clearance approach, which was costly and trade- restrictive, and only allowed small amounts of apples into the US market.

The United States responded that considerable progress had been made on requests by the European Union to expand access for their apples and pears to the US market. The final step in the process was the publication of a final notice by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

In November 2019, the European Union regretted that although the United States had concluded the necessary risk assessment for the importation of apples and pears from the European Union several years ago, trade had not been allowed to resume. The final administrative step of publishing the relevant rule had been blocked. The European Union acknowledged that imports of apples and pears were permitted from some EU member States using the pre-clearance approach. However, trade statistics demonstrated that only very small quantities were being exported due to high costs and complex procedures. The European Union thanked the United States for the exchanges that had clarified that there was no scientific or technical reason for not permitting imports of apples and pears under the systems approach. Finally, the European Union called upon the United States to explain the basis for delaying the publication of the final notice allowing for import of apples and pears from EU member States.

The United States thanked the European Union for its continued interest in this issue and for the recent bilateral engagements in Brussels in October 2019. The United States clarified that the final step in the process was the publication of a final notice by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

In June 2020, the European Union provided the following statement: It is with regret that the European Union has to repeat its concern about the United States refusal to allow imports of apples and pears from the European Union under a so-called systems approach – instead of the existing pre-clearance approach. Already in 2008, more than a decade ago, the European Union initiated an application to the United Sates to work towards the agreement of shipping apples and pears from the European Union to the United States under a systems approach. Today's exports of apples and pears are allowed under a pre-clearance program. However, this system is not working as it is overly costly and therefore only very limited exports of apples and pears are taking place from the European Union to the United States. The European Union is disappointed that the United States has failed so far to solve this issue where all scientific work has been carried out and as the United States finalised its assessment already several years ago and concluded that safe imports of apples and pears from the European Union could start to take place under a bilaterally agreed systems approach. The only missing element is a purely administrative step, namely the publication by the United States of a final notice to allow trade to start. There is no scientific basis for the United States to block this publication. The European Union thus considers that the United States is not complying with the WTO SPS Agreement. Therefore, the European Union calls the United States to respect its obligations under the WTO and to approve the imports of apples and pears from the European Union under the agreed systems approach without any further delay.

The United States provided the following statement: The United States thanks the European Union for its continued interest in the status of the request from eight EU member States to export apples and pears under a systems approach to the United States. The United States Department of Agriculture continues to work through its administrative procedures on this request. We would again note that the European Union is able to export apples and pears to the United States under the existing preclearance program. We appreciate our bilateral engagement on this issue.