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U.S., Japan farm chiefs to meet over beef row

U.S., Japan farm chiefs to meet over beef row

The U.S. agriculture secretary heads to Japan this week in a renewed attempt to settle a long-running beef trade dispute that has created friction between the close allies.
Japan, once the biggest buyer of U.S. beef, stopped the imports after mad cow disease was detected in an American herd in late 2003 and has only resumed limited imports since then.
U.S. farm state senators have fumed that the restrictions are "scientifically unfounded," with no new cases of the brain-wasting cattle disease bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) detected for years.
During the recent controversy about Toyota's faulty gas pedal systems, Republican Senator Mike Johanns from Nebraska charged that, by the same logic, the United States could halt all Japanese car imports.
He wondered aloud "what the response would be in Japan if I suggested... that until the Japanese government can assure us that all of the defects are out of these vehicles, we're just not going to accept any vehicles from Japan."
Still, the Japanese government has stayed firm.
"Basically, I have no plan to change the position that Japan has taken so far," Agriculture Minister Hirotaka Akamatsu said last week. "We will stand by the scientific findings."
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who will meet Akamatsu on Thursday, has said he intends to press Japan to lift the curbs but also said he had "no illusions about how easy this is going to be."
Years ago the ban nearly grew into a full-blown trade war, when U.S. farm-state senators pressed for sanctions unless Tokyo opened up its markets by the end of 2005.
The following year Japan agreed to resume limited U.S. imports from cattle under 20 months, except for high-risk parts such as brains and spine bones.
Vilsack is expected to now push for the restrictions to be softened to include cattle up to 30 months old.
Japan's U.S. beef imports now stand at only around 10 percent of their former peak, and Japan has periodically frozen imports by companies whenever it found banned cattle parts in shipments.
In the past four years, Japan suspended shipment from 13 U.S. meat packers, taking up to several months to allow them to resume business. One of them still remains restricted, a Japanese farm ministry official said.
Akamatsu said last week he would repeat Japan's position that the U.S. side must first make sure that breaches of the import rules stop.
On the Japanese side, too, many want U.S. imports to increase again, among them fast-food beef bowl chain Yoshinoya Holdings, which once relied heavily on American beef shipments.
After the import ban, it had to take beef bowls off the menu for more than two years, instead offering pork and fish versions.
Yoshinoya spokesman Yasunori Yoshimura told reporter "We really hope good quality beef will be supplied sustainably for a reasonable price. We hope U.S. beef imports will be normalised."


Updated : 2021-02-27 05:32 GMT+08:00