Beef Trade Relations Continue with Asian Markets

Reports indicate China may resume U.S. beef trade within the next month. Jacqui Fatka

Published on: Mar 30, 2006

National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Mike John expressed his views with Japan's closed beef market doors likely the same as nearly every other producer across the country, "We're frustrated. At some point, enough is enough. We're anxious to be trading partners once again."

John made the comments during a media conference at NCBA's Spring Conference in Washington, D.C., Thursday.

A U.S. technical team visited Japan this week to continue bilateral negotiations to resume beef trade after ineligible material in a veal shipment in January closed the doors. Jay Truitt, NCBA vice president of governmental affairs, says although he doesn't know a lot of details about the delegation's visit, he is "fairly optimistic about having an outcome here in the near future to meet everyone's expectations."

According to Japan's Kyodo News Service, technical team leader Charles Lambert, acting U.S. agriculture undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, called Japan's actions to halt trade "excessive" compared to a similar situation in Hong Kong.

"They (Hong Kong) did choose to delist the one plant and ... Japan shut off all plants. We feel that was excessive, obviously," Lambert told Kyodo.

Trade resumption advancing with South Korea, China

NCBA CEO Terry Stokes says although there is not a definitive answer about when trade resumption will occur with South Korea, it's NCBA's hope that it would be before summer.

In comments to NCBA members Thursday, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns acknowledged the latest bovine spongiform encephalopathy case has caused concern with some key trading partners such as South Korea, which had planned to reopen its market to U.S. beef in coming weeks.

"I would be less than candid if I did not share that this is somewhat of a setback with regard to South Korea," he says. "But not a day goes by that we are not in consultation with the South Korean government."

Johanns said it is USDA’s objective to not only reopen the South Korean market to boneless beef soon, but also to bone-in products that have historically comprised much of the beef exported to that nation.

News reports also indicate China sent a group of inspectors to the U.S. this week for its own beef trade resumption. Some hypothesize that China may resume trade before China's president visits the U.S. next month.

He says it is hard to speculate if China will resume trade in the next month, but they'll take a wait and see approach of what realities actually emerge with a market that has vast market potential.