Japan Turns Its Back on US Agression

US - US agriculture officials visiting Japan have all but rejected that country's offer to allow in beef from animals up to 30 months old.
calendar icon 11 December 2007
clock icon 2 minute read

The statement did not satisfy US officials, who insists on the full removal of the age restriction, and the negotiations seemed to be at stalemate. Meanwhile, the Japanese retailer group Aeon has noted the safety of US beef, and may re-start sales of US beef in the future.

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Japan imported 27,743 tonnes of US beef during January to October this year – 13% of the same period in 2003.

USDA officials argue Japan's offer falls short of the total access the US deserves from all trade partners, after being declared a "controlled risk" country for mad cow disease earlier this year.

Acting US Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner is directing his deputies to send a strong message to the Japanese.

"They have said they're going to trade according to the international standards," he says.

"They continue to attempt to back away from that.

"Dr Keenum and Ellen Terpstra's message to them is going to continue to be 'you've got to live up to that commitment'."

According to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) market analysts this was the first time that the Japanese government made specific remarks on the review conditions, and the Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) was quick to add that it still requires a scientific assessment prior to consulting with the FSC.

Despite the Japan’s consideration of a limited protocol change, the US was reportedly adamant in requesting the World Animal Health Organization (OIE) standard of no age limitation, with Specific Risk Materials (SRMs) removed.

It is unlikely that Japan would agree with the US and jump straight to no age limitation from the current under 21 months rule, as it would attract strong resistance from consumers and the domestic cattle industry. Even the recent announcement by the Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) on the discontinuation of subsidies for BSE testing for domestic cattle younger than 21 months sparked numerous discussions among prefecture governments as well as consumers, indicating continued sensitivity on the food safety issue.

Meanwhile, Japan’s retail giant Aeon said during a seminar in Japan, that they are working towards resumption of US beef sales, and their meat buyers have already inspected the US facilities and confirmed its safety. However, no details of the resumption have been released yet. Other major retailers, such as Ito-Yokado, Daiei and Seiyu, are already selling US beef at their outlets.

Japan imported 27,743 tonnes of US beef during January to October this year – 13% of the same period in 2003.

TheCattleSite News Desk

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