Cattlemen Hopeful for Vilsack Visit to Japan

Secretary is laying groundwork for future negotiations.

Published on: Apr 7, 2010
U.S. cattlemen are hopeful Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack's visit to Japan this week will be the first step in further opening that market to U.S. beef. National Cattlemen's Beef Association Chief Economist Gregg Doud says while they don't expect any major movement on the issue, Vilsack is laying important groundwork with the new political party and their ag minister.

"It's a new regime, a new group; we have to get to know them and they have to get to know us," Doud said. "We have to get a feel for how they're going to run the country and they've indicated they are going to run
Japan
very, very differently than it's ever been run before. Political appointees are going to be much more in charge of these political decisions than the bureaucrats and the bureaucracy, which is the way it's always been done. So there is a comfort level that has to be established before we can move forward."

Doud says they're encouraged the new Japanese administration has shown a willingness to talk, but says it may be unrealistic to expect Japan to move beef restrictions from 20 to 30 months of age yet this calendar year.
 
"That's a question that I press our government with all the time and the answer is we really don't know," Doud said. "I think from the assessment of everything I've heard, the answer is because they don't know, I don't think
Japan knows. Right now what is on their mind is this big election that they have in July and once we get past that we'll better be able to answer that question."

Doud says while Japan isn't following OIE standards, NCBA agrees with the Secretary's approach to the negotiation process and believe politics must be put aside. Vilsack has been critical of the previous Administration's all or nothing approach to negotiations with Japanese officials on beef trade.