Japan Unwilling to Follow Science Approach

Veneman and Zoellick address Japan's refusal to accept OIE guidelines for normalizing beef trade. Jacqui Fatka

Published on: Apr 1, 2004

Japanese Ministry of Agriculture authorities have continued to insist that testing of all animals and removal of specific risk materials are conditions for entry of U.S. beef products in the Japanese market. International experts, as noted in the recent report of the international scientific panel that reviewed the U.S. system, agree there is no scientific basis for 100% testing, states a statement from USDA Secretary Ann Veneman and U. S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick.

On March 29, Veneman wrote a letter to Japanese Agriculture Minister Yoshiyuki Kamei, requesting for unified action between the United States and Japan "at a critical juncture internationally with BSE" the letter says. Veneman's letter explains to Kamei "much of the world is looking to our two governments to provide leadership and establish and example of how this issue should be appropriately handled in the future."

Veneman requested that the United States and Japan jointly approach the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and request expedited technical consultations. Veneman outlined the following timeline:

  • April 9: Both countries agree upon well-defined questions to pose to a panel of OIE experts.
  • April 14: Agree upon a common list of candidates (recommended by the OIE) that would form the panel of experts.
  • April 28: Panel would meet before this date in a mutually agreeable location. Prior to the meeting, the panel could meet with technical experts from Japan and the U.S.
  • April 30: Panel would provide responses to the agreed-upon questions.

But in a news conference, vice agriculture minister, Mamoru Ishihara, said Tokyo won't back the idea. He was quoted in wire reports saying it was inappropriate to involve the World Organization for Animal Health and it was also "unrealistic to seek a solution to the issue by the end of this month."

Ishihara told these views to the press, but also told reporters that he would not be relating the message to Veneman for another couple of days. The statement released April 1, 2004, from Veneman and Zoellick says, "We are disappointed that the Japanese response to our proposal was conveyed through the press instead of engaging in constructive dialogue about the merits of the proposal."

The statement adds, "We urge the government of Japan to agree to an OIE consultation and to assure that its measures are consistent with its international commitments as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)."