Apple War?

August 20, 1993

Someone threw an apple into the trade agreement that President Clinton made with Japan's former Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa in Tokyo last month. Farmers in the Columbia River valley in Washington have grown apples to meet Japan's every exacting requirements. Japan is saying the farmers still have to prove them pest-free, while Washington (D.C.) is demanding that Japan import our apples. Politicians and farmers in Washington (State) are demanding sanctions.

With enormous stakes including Japan's $50 billion trade surplus with the U.S., these apples hardly seem worth it. The number of Washington apple farmers involved is small and Japan's apple farmers are ten times as many, with little plots and a smaller aggregate crop. These are small sectional interests in both countries.

The dispute flares just as the settlement of the previous beef crisis, to American satisfaction, has been brought into question by Japanese government attempts to get domestic importers to stabilize prices and protect Japanese producers.

American apples don't compete for the same market as Japan's -- our big Delicious against their small, delicate Fujis. Protection of apple growers, in either country, should not be allowed to wreck freer trade between the two countries.

Meanwhile, the 3,500 acres of apples Washington farmers have managed and isolated according to Japanese specifications, to end the 22-year ban on American apples there, stand out in world agriculture for solicitude to a consuming country. They are like nothing grown in Japan. If no coddling moth or fire blight can be found among them -- and none has -- the Japanese consumer should not be denied their delights any longer.

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