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Timeframe of Japanese border reopening is vague

Agriculture.com Staff 01/24/2006 @ 7:28am

Just days following Japan closing its border to U.S. beef due to a violation of a trade agreement, talk of when the market would re-open started.

Lynn Heinze, U.S. Meat Export Federation spokesman said on Monday the Japanese ban should be short lived if it's based on science.

"By international standards, our product that went there exceeded safety standards and there is no reason to have any restrictions on trade between the two countries," Heinze said. "That doesn't mix well with politics and that is what we are dealing with here."

Trade had partially resumed on condition that the U.S won't export parts such as spinal products and brain into Japan.

Japan originally banned U.S. beef imports in December 2003 after the discovery of case in the U.S of brain-wasting bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.

For all sorts of reasons there is no reason for the ban to last a long time, Heinze said. However, the Japanese legislature is involved now and its Prime Minister sees this as an insult to him because he was accused of being President Bush's lap dog accepting U.S. beef without enough assurance of safety.

"If the Japanese need to prove they are nobody's lap dog, they could decide they need to spend a little bit more time on the fence before going back to opening the market again, Heinze said.

Meanwhile, the two governments have continued talking and that is positive, Heinze said. "The prompt action the USDA Secretary took in rectifying the export problem has been positive."

Heinze added, "What has been negative is the consumer press in Japan. For them, it's not as we might think of it as being one mistake by one company and one inspector. Rather, it's a system failure. It doesn't matter who the company was it was the fact that first of all thought the product qualified (for export) and a USDA inspector went along with it."

According to the Dow Jones newswire, Japanese Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said Tuesday that U.S. beef producers need to carefully follow Japan's rules when exporting beef to the country. In a a separate Dow Jones newswire report, a senior USDA official said Tuesday that U.S. and Japanese officials did not discuss a specific time frame for restarting U.S. beef exports to Japan, according to the Dow Jones newswire.

Heinze agreed that it is hard to tell at this point what answer the Japanese need to re-open their market to U.S. beef.

Just days following Japan closing its border to U.S. beef due to a violation of a trade agreement, talk of when the market would re-open started.

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