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Japan stance ’unchanged’ on US beef imports for talks, ministry says

Bloomberg | Sep 10, 2010

Japan stance `unchanged’ on US beef imports for talks, ministry says

By Aya Takada

Japan will maintain its stance on restricting some U.S. beef when officials from the two countries hold talks next week, the agriculture ministry said today.

Officials from Japan’s agriculture and health ministries will meet their U.S. counterparts on Sept. 14 and 15 in San Francisco to exchange opinions on U.S. beef, the two ministries said in a joint statement today. Japan doesn’t allow imports of U.S. beef from animals older than 20 months, as the youngest case of mad-cow disease was found in a 21-month-old animal.

“Our stance is unchanged,” Farm Minister Masahiko Yamada was cited as saying to reporters earlier today by ministry spokesman Kenji Nakagawa. “We would like to hold talks based on scientific knowledge as we consider food safety as a very important issue.”

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack agreed with then-farm minister Hirotaka Akamatsu to resume bilateral talks on normalizing beef trade, stalled since August 2007, when he visited Tokyo in April.

Companies including Tyson Foods Inc. and Cargill Inc. are losing sales of about $1 billion a year because of Japan’s refusal to allow imports of beef from older animals, according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

The World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, voted in May 2007 to give the U.S. its “controlled-risk” rating for mad-cow disease, indicating controls are effective and meat from U.S. cattle of any age can be safely traded. The OIE standards are used to settle trade disputes at the World Trade Organization.

Japan was the largest foreign buyer of U.S. beef before banning all imports after the first case of the disease was discovered in the U.S. in December 2003. The Asian nation eased the ban in December 2005 to allow meat to be imported from cattle aged 20 months or younger.

 source: Bloomberg