Mexico Reopens Beef Borders

Phased agreement allows resumption of exports of U.S. boneless beef 30 months of age or younger. Compiled by staff

Published on: Mar 3, 2004

Mexico’s inventories of imported and domestic beef are currently low and now there is a solution--U.S. beef. On Wednesday Mexican Agricultural Secretary Javier Usabiaga resumed trade with the U.S. for nearly 80% of pre-BSE market levels.

Japan isn't likely to reopen their doors to U.S. beef anytime soon, but Mexico has decided the measures the U.S. has taken are sufficient. On Wednesday the United States and Mexico reached an agreement for a phased resumption of U.S. beef exports.

The first stage of the agreement mirrors the beef trade agreement between Canada and Mexico and will allow exports to Mexico of boneless beef products from animals of less than 30 months of age. The certification language is currently being developed, and these products will be certified jointly by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Agriculture Marketing Service.

While this measure only allows the U.S. to export boneless beef and veal from animals which are less than 30 months of age, USDA has provided assurances that this is only "Phase I" of the program, and that measures for other items such as trimmings and variety meat items for export to Mexico are currently being negotiated.

"The opening of the No. 2 market for U.S. beef is due to hard work by the USDA and our industry partners and a resolve by the Mexican government to rely on science," says U.S. Meat and Export Federation (USMEF) President and CEO Philip Seng. "The initial agreement allowing boneless beef covers an estimated 75-80% of what the U.S. exports to Mexico, and we look forward to future phases of the agreement reopening this important market to U.S. beef variety meat. USMEF and USDA both recognize how important offals and trimming exports to Mexico are to the industry."

"We have worked closely with the Mexican officials to inform them of all the actions USDA has taken to further strengthen our food safety and animal health systems since the discovery of a BSE positive animal last December," says USDA Secretary Ann Veneman. "We have provided to Mexican officials extensive information as requested, and have hosted their technical teams to illustrate that our beef is indeed safe.

USMEF Vice President, Western Hemisphere Homero Recio reminds, "Although all our products are not included in the reopening, we see this as the first step of the complete opening of the Mexican market to all U.S. beef products."

"Mexico is our second largest export market for beef and beef products. We are very pleased that today's announcement begins the resumption of this trade," Veneman says. In 2003, the U.S. exported 335,847 metric tons of beef and beef variety meat products to Mexico, valued at $877,039.

Veneman also hopes the actions taken by Mexico will be a precedent for other trading partners.