USA Today reports that a possible trade war looms over the U.S.- Japan beef dispute. Since Japan reimposed a ban on all U.S. beef on Jan. 20 after an improper shipment of veal, frustrations have mounted as officials on both sides work to resume trade.
"It was a stupid mistake, but it's a mistake that's stopped in its tracks a (multi) billion-dollar industry," says J. Thomas Schieffer, U.S. Ambassador to Japan. "You don't want beef to set off a trade war between the United States and Japan... This has the potential for being very damaging to the relationship. It's already had a corrosive effect."
Japanese officials took a hard line on U.S. beef imports, demanding an explanation for the last export error and requiring Japanese inspections of American beef facilities. U.S. lawmakers are losing patience, with one senator demanding trade resumption by June 1.
But, in Japan, consumers remain terrified of BSE. Some Japanese officials even say that people's fears are exaggerated and border on irrational, reports Cattle Buyers Weekly. Last week, Japanese officials held 10 town hall meetings throughout Japan to discuss the status of U.S.-Japan beef negotiations and address BSE concerns.
Meanwhile, in recent days Japan confirmed its 25th case of BSE in a 5-year-old Holstein. Last week the National Meat Association reported a suspected case in a 20-month-old cow. She does not have BSE, Japanese officials later reported.
Meanwhile, some in Japan still want American beef. During a public meeting in Tokyo last week, Japanese food industry officials urged the government to allow them to resume importing beef from the U.S. as soon as possible. "The Japanese safety standards are too strict," one official said in reference to limiting imports to cattle younger than 20 months of age while the international standard is 30 months, Reuters reports. Japan imposed the age limit of 20 months, far below the international baseline of 30 months.