Japan Lifts Apple Ban: The Japanese government said it is lifting the 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. Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries made the announcement after determining the apples were safe and cleared all necessary health inspections, commission spokesman Jim Thomas said. “The next step now is they’ve put out their regulations on how we’re supposed to do all this. This gives us the go-ahead to start the procedures to export this year’s crop to Japan,” Thomas said. Japan’s ban on American apples has been the focus of a longstanding trade dispute.