CCAB’s initial priorities for market access were to open the strategic markets of Australia, Mexico, and China to California cherries. Obstacles preventing access to these markets for California cherries were alleged pest and disease concerns by the foreign governments and competing industries in each of these countries. In the agricultural trade arena, these plant health issues are officially referred to as phytosanitary barriers.
To address these issues, BCI worked in various capacities with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), the University of California, and other local regulatory agencies and plant health experts. In short, the work involved identifying which of the foreign governments’ plant health concerns were legitimate and which were unfounded. For legitimate phytosanitary concerns, BCI worked with industry and government regulators to develop practical mitigation measures to ensure trade could proceed with assurances of safety. These mitigation measures were then memorialized in import requirements negotiated with each foreign government.
While parties to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Uruguay Round agreement are required to base their sanitary and phytosanitary decisions on sound scientific principles, this is not always the case in practice. At times, countries erect barriers to imports due to genuine disagreements on the scientific research or simply for protectionist purposes. In these instances, it may be necessary to apply political pressure or utilize third party dispute settlement bodies to resolve technical disputes and open markets. In the case of California cherries to Mexico, BCI worked with U.S. government officials to employ a provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement’s (NAFTA) dispute settlement process to help reach a final agreement covering access for U.S. sweet cherries to Mexico. For other BCI clients, BCI has worked within the WTO’s dispute settlement body to resolve major market access issues.
BCI successfully opened the Australian, Mexican, and Chinese markets to California fresh sweet cherries. Over the years, BCI has helped the industry secure, maintain, and improve market access in countless other key destinations around the world resulting in millions of dollars of exports. Today, BCI continues to serve the California sweet cherry industry on both international market development and global market access.