Discontent Growing for Japanese Movement on Beef Trade Resumption

Groups testify before House Ways and Means committee saying continued ban is unwarranted trade barrier.

Published on: Sep 29, 2005

Japan has not reopened its market for beef, nor announced a definite time for doing so, despite extensive testing and safety protections in the United States to prevent bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle. As a result talk on Capitol Hill and in the countryside is turning hostile against Japan's slow actions.

At a meeting held Monday, Japan's Food Safety Commission says more time is needed to examine U.S. BSE firewall measures. The Commission concluded that the risk of BSE infection from U.S. cattle is several times higher than from Japanese beef. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association says this claim is false, explaining the United States was the first country without a confirmed case of BSE to put in place interlocking safeguards and testing for the disease.

Japan's Commission also discussed what to include in its final recommendation scheduled to be submitted to the Japanese government by the end of the year. An unofficial draft on the Commission's Web site states the group is planning to recommend restricting imports to meat from cattle younger than 21 months with birth certificates.

"Japan's inexplicable lack of response to even consider a move to re-open their market to U.S. beef will sorely tempt economic trade action against Japan. Japan is well beyond the time for assessing scientific reasoning, and diplomatic efforts attempted repeatedly by the president, by our trade emissaries, and by the U.S. Congress," says Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss. "Japan's latest delay has only hastened America's demand for action, and increased my strong displeasure for Japan's inattentiveness to our trade relationship."

The House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing Wednesday discussing U.S.-Japan economic and trade relations.

NCBA President Jim McAdams testimony states there is absolutely "no scientific explanation for this continued ban on our U.S. beef products," he says. "Not only does this full, unwarranted ban on top-quality U.S. beef continue, but in recent weeks Japan's Food Safety Commission has made false claims regarding the safety of U.S. beef. Such impeding deferral tactics reveal that this export freeze has become nothing more than an unjustified trade barrier, and these false statements must be addressed."

The American Meat Institute called for Japanese rules consistent with the OIE standards as a necessary step to restoring trade. AMI President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle pointed out that despite clear scientific evidence showing the safety of American beef, the Japanese market remains closed because of technical barriers, at a cost of $100 million a month to U.S. cattlemen. "The economic consequences of Japan and other countries' aberration from the science and recommendations of the OIE continue to affect AMI member companies, who have been forced to lay off nearly 10,000 workers since the closure of our export markets in 2003. This unjustified, economically harmful ban has stunted the growth of a historically robust and active trading partnership," Boyle says.

McAdams adds that cattle producers consider October 2005 a significant milestone in the push for resumption of U.S. beef exports to Japan. Nearly one year ago, October 23, 2004, the U.S. Government and the Government of Japan issued a joint press statement outlining the conditions and modalities by which the two countries would begin resuming two-way trade in beef and beef products.

"We saw the implementation of this agreement as an interim step in resumption of trade with Japan and believed it would lead to science-based trade consistent with the World Organization for Animal Health guidelines in an expeditious manner," McAdams says. "The United States has been extremely patient with Japan, giving them a generous amount of time to work through internal processes. But we have yet to see a timeline regarding re-opening of Japan's borders to U.S. beef. Quite simply, Japan has not followed through on what it committed to in October 2004."