President George W. Bush spent 15 minutes on the phone Wednesday urging Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to resume imports of U.S. beef, according to a report by Kyodo News.
Dow Jones newswires say that although it is unknown who initiated the phone call, Koizumi reiterated Japan's stance that its food safety panel would make the decision on whether to end the band. The Food Safety Commission, agriculture and health ministries must sign off before trade is resumed.
A framework agreement was struck with Japan in October 2004. However, the approval process has been slow, with weeks, sometimes months between different decisions. Earlier this month, a Japanese government panel took a step toward partially lifting the ban by recommending that Japan begin importing U.S. grade A40 beef, which comes primarily from cattle 12 to 17 months old.
Japan's Food Safety Commission plans to meet Friday to discuss the lifting of the policy of testing all cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy disease, a move required before Japan can resume imports of U.S. beef.