U.S., Japan Set Framework for Return to Beef Trade

Protocols reached that aim to get nation's No. 1 beef customer back to buying. Compiled by staff

Published on: Apr 24, 2004

The U.S. Meat Export Federation announced early Saturday that U.S. and Japanese officials have agreed to protocols aimed at resumption of beef exports to Japan. The Japanese market, once the top buyer of U.S. beef, was valued at $1.4 billion.

"There is a meeting of minds about the need to resolve the current ban," says Paul Clayton, USMEF vice president, export services. Clayton and Joel Haggard from USMEF were in Tokyou as a resource to the USDA delegation. USMEF President Phil Seng, speaking from Denver, says "This is encouraging news and the first and most important step toward resumption of trade."

Under the agreement spelled in a joint English and Japanese press release issued late Friday night, the U.S. and Japan will engage in "consultations, including a working group…over a period of this summer. At the same time, the two sides will respectively pursue domestic discussions and make efforts…to reach a final conclusion by sometime around summer on the resumption of the importation of both American and Japanese beef."

USMEF points out that trade press that contacted the organization were surprised that Japanese officials aren't asking for 100% testing -as that government has been demanding since the Dec. 23 discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the United States. Japan tests all of the 1.9 million head of cattle slaughtered annually. Japanese officials, when questioned about the potential reversal on total BSE testing, say the practices would be re-evaluated.

  • definition of BSE and method of testing
  • definition of specified risk materials and the method of removal
  • appropriate surveillance
  • appropriate feed ban implemention
  • cattle month-age indentification, and
  • other issues (to be outlined).
"This doesn't mean that we will be shipping beef to Japan next week," Seng notes. "What it does mean is that both governments recognize the mutual importance of U.S. beef trade and the need to base future trade decisions on science, and that they have laid out a plan and a timetable that will lead to trade resumption."