PHILADELPHIA — The Argentinian ambassador to the United States is optimistic that the decade-long U.S. ban on lemons from his country will end next year, a move that would be boon to the Greater Philadelphia region.
The U.S. banned Argentinian citrus imports in 2001 because of concerns over two plant diseases that trade officials said could hurt domestic crops. Argentina, the top global lemon producer, ships its citrus products all over the world, including Europe, said Jorge Arguello, Argentina’s ambassador to the U.S., on Friday. This shows that the U.S. ban is more about shielding domestic lemon producers, rather than protecting American consumers, he said.
“We are optimistic (the citrus ban will be lifted) because the general numbers in bilateral trade have only grown in a very clear way since 2003 up to today,” he said. The solution for the Argentina trade deficit with the U.S. “is not to buy less from the U.S. but to be able to sell more.”
Arguello said trade between the two countries has more than doubled over the last decade, and trade is expected to hit a record of more than $14 billion by the end of the year.
Argentina is also working to convince the U.S. to lift an import ban on its much-prized beef. That ban went into effect in 2001 after a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the previous year. Although frozen and cooked Argentinian meat is allowed into the U.S., raw meat is banned.
The lifting of either ban would likely further solidify the Port of Philadelphia as the major U.S. gateway for Argentinian produce imports. Roughly a third of Argentina’s exports of dairy products, food preparations, fruits, vegetables, nuts and other food times enter the U.S. through Philadelphia terminals. The Argentine Embassy and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce announced on Friday their plan to create a bilateral chamber to further promote trade between the South American country and the northeastern U.S. A morning breakfast for Arguello on Friday was hosted by the chamber, the Martime Exchange of the Delaware River and Bay, and Ship Philly First, a group devoted to promoting the Port of Philadelphia.
Dennis Rochford, president of the Maritime Exchange for the Delaware River and Bay, said his group has also been pressuring U.S. officials to lift citrus import restrictions. He estimated that more than 500 of the 2,200 vessels that call on the port annually unload fruit and other produce goods.
“We are the ideal entrance for fruit and fresh produce,” Rochford said. “Our stevedoring companies have shown their success in handling those breakbulk and container cargoes.”
The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office defended the ban on beef and lemon imports from Argentina in August, saying the rules were science-based and followed World Trade Organization requirements, according to Reuters. The statement came after Argentina filed a request with the WTO for consultations with the U.S. over the bans.