The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2024 53 Pomelo Diplomacy! I thought about the unique talents of APHIS. For those who don’t know, we are the smallest Foreign Service agency, but our impact is at the heart of most agriculture trade issues. The APHIS Foreign Service, called “International Services,” is the platform by which APHIS delivers technical talent to support international agricultural diplomacy. We actively back and cultivate the capacity of communities, institutions, and governments to manage threats to agriculture in a way that is sustainable, effective, and protects plants, animals, and the finely interwoven global agricultural community. International Services encompasses a range of technical experts in entomology, plant pathology, animal health, aquaculture, and risk management, ultimately creating a forum that leverages expertise across APHIS. Through collaboration with foreign counterparts at diplomatic, policy, and technical levels, APHIS promotes science-based regulatory transparency that leads to safe and resilient agricultural trade. Suddenly, inspiration struck! Pomelo diplomacy! In 2022, fresh Thai pomelo, the “king of citrus fruits,” completed the necessary regulatory steps and became the eighth Thai fruit cleared for entry to the U.S. The result of more than 15 years of collaborative work between Thai and American agricultural scientists, it is a unique example of the mutual benefits of the U.S.-Thai 190-year relationship. The eight fruits approved under the preclearance program between Thailand and the U.S. include the mango, longan, lychee, mangosteen, rambutan, pineapple, dragon fruit, and now the pomelo. Unfortunately, when the process concluded in early 2022, the news was swallowed up in the fog of the COVID19 pandemic. With supply chains strained and many times not working, inflation pushed prices for shipping fresh fruit sky high. No fresh fruit was making the journey to the U.S. from Thailand. My idea was to rally around the pomelo, the quintessential Thai fruit, to cut through the fog to celebrate the 190 years of U.S.-Thai collaboration. The author (third from right) with Director General of the Thai Department of Agriculture Khun Rapibhat Chandarasrivongs (third from left) and other Thai dignitaries, at the airport, prior to exporting the irradiated fruit, where a ceremony was planned to commemorate the first shipment of Thai pomelo fruit to the U.S. JITLADA VASUVAT