Jose Navarro empties a bucket of cherries into a bin while working in Sunnyside in June 2019.

More apples, pears and cherries from the Yakima Valley and the Pacific Northwest could be shipped to China in the next two years under the phase one agreement between the U.S. and China that was signed Wednesday.

As part of the agreement, China agreed to purchase at least $40 billion in U.S. agricultural products annually for 2020 and 2021.

The agreement, however, does not spell out how China would honor that agreement, said Mark Powers, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, in a phone interview from Washington, D.C.

“There are all kind of mechanisms they could employ in order to honor the agreement, to purchase the level of agricultural products they agreed to purchase,” he said. “We’re working with our government to put forward what we think the level of purchase for our industry (should be).”

China has not yet removed 50% retaliatory tariffs on U.S. cherries, pears and apples, Powers said. China could remove the tariffs to honor its purchasing obligations.

“It’s likely going to involve a partnership and work with the U.S. government and Chinese importers,” he said.

Exports of tree fruit grown in the Yakima Valley and throughout the Pacific Northwest have been adversely affected by retaliatory tariffs, which have been in place for nearly two years. The shipment of Northwest cherries to China, for example, dropped from 3 million 20-pound boxes in 2017 to 1.7 million boxes two years later.

Reach Mai Hoang at maihoang@yakimaherald.com or Twitter @maiphoang