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by Geraldine Warner

n independent report on global canned pear production supports claims by the U.S. processed pear industry that it is sensitive to imports.
Competition from cheap imports prompted the Pacific Northwest canned pear industry and the California canned fruit industry to call for a study of the major competing countries of the world. The U.S. Congress asked the U.S. International Trade Commission to conduct the study.

Mark Powers, vice president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, said the ITC’s reporta purely factual report from an independent organizationsupports the U.S. canned fruit industry’s assertion that it is important to maintain tariffs on imported fruit for as long as possible.

The tariff on most canned pears imported into the United States is 15.3 percent. However, the tariff on South African canned pears was eliminated by the African Growth and Opportunities Act of 2001, and Powers said there could be moves to drop the tariff on canned pears from other countries as part of free-trade agreements.

The ITC report shows that the U.S. tariff is lower than in other canned-pear-producing regions. The tariff in the European Union ranges from 16.0 to 19.2 percent, and China imposes a 20 percent tariff and 17 percent value-added tax on imported canned pears.

Competitive threat

The ITC’s findings should be useful to the Pacific Northwest pear industry as it evaluates strategies for the future, Powers said. "What we were hoping to achieve was to obtain information specific to China and how the industry in that country is growing, as we all know it is. Was there some kind of information on the cost of production that might be useful to our industry to better understand the competitive threat that it faces?

He added, "I think that information was uncovered as much as it can be uncovered, given the fragmented nature of the industry in China."
Some time ago, the U.S. pear industry discussed the possibility of filing an antidumping action against Chinese canned pear producers. While that was not the primary reason for asking for the investigation, it does provide information that could help the industry decide whether or not to take that step, Powers said.

Much of the information in the report is not new to the industry, but the fact that it has been published by an independent agency will be helpful, he added. "When people like myself are back in Washington, D.C., advocating on behalf of the industry, or talking to trade negotiators and people who are making decisions on trade, we’re able to cite information from this report that can be substantiated.