Japan lifts ban on U.S. applesThe Japanese government...

BUSINESS DIGEST

August 20, 1994

Japan lifts ban on U.S. apples

The Japanese government announced yesterday that it is lifting a 23-year ban on U.S. apple imports, clearing the way for Washington apples to be sent to Japan by December, a Washington Apple Commission spokesman said yesterday.

Japan's ban on American apples has been the focus of a long-standing trade dispute. U.S. growers say it has cost them at least $150 million in business over the past five years.

Japan ostensibly opened its apple market in 1971 but has continued to ban imports from the United States on grounds that U.S. fruit might bring in pests and disease.

Confed says it will pay claims

Confederation Life Insurance Co., the Canadian insurer that was seized by regulators a week ago and is headed toward liquidation, said this week it would continue to pay claims to policyholders, the Maryland Insurance Administration announced yesterday. The company, which has a subsidiary in Georgia and does business in Maryland, has launched a program to keep its agents informed of developments, the state said.

Policyholders of Confederation, and its U.S. subsidiary, Confederation Life Insurance and Annuity Co., were urged to keep in touch with their agents for further information. Should Confederation become unable to pay its claims, the Maryland Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Corp. could become available to pay claims from the nearly 10,000 Maryland policyholders. The guaranty corporation can be reached at 998-3907.

Wal-Mart ventures into Far East

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the largest U.S. retailer, said yesterday that it has signed a joint venture agreement to operate Wal-Mart discount stores and warehouse membership clubs in Hong Kong and China.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer's joint venture partner is Ek Chor Distribution System Co. Limited, a Hong Kong-based company.

The joint venture expects to open three or four stores this fall in Hong Kong. No date has been established for opening stores in mainland China.

BGE reducing its rebates Nov. 1

The Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. is reducing its rebates on central air conditioning systems and heat pumps starting Nov. 1.

The utility company will no longer give rebates for central air conditioners or heat pumps that have a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) of 11.0 to 11.99. For more efficient systems, the utility is cutting its rebates by $150 to $175 per installation. Rebates for gas furnaces and gas boilers are remaining the same.

BGE said it is cutting the rebates because the price difference between high-efficiency models and more commonly purchased

equipment has shrunk over the years.

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