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Japan Moves Closer To Trade

U.S. and Japanese government officials met Saturday, April 24 to discuss procedures that could lead to the resumption of beef exports to Japan — traditionally the largest importer of U.S. beef. According to a press release issued by the American Embassy in Tokyo, the two countries agreed to actively pursue trade discussions and form a working group consisting of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) experts and government officials. The two parties plan to meet once a month, beginning mid-May, until sometime this summer, when officials hope to reach a conclusion regarding trade negotiations. The two governments are expected to discuss the following items:

• definition of BSE and testing methods;

• definition of Specified Risk Materials (SRMs) and removal methods;

• appropriate surveillance;

• appropriate implementation of a feed ban;

• categorization of risk and status of countries;

• identification of cattle age; and

• other items of interest.

According to a U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) news release, Japan Food Safety Commission officials stated during a conference following the meeting that Japan’s 100%-testing policy would be re-evaluated, a policy that has been previously strictly upheld by officials in the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fish and Forestry (MAFF).

USMEF President and chief executive officer (CEO) Philip Seng referred to the meeting as the first and most important step toward resuming trade with a country that imported about $1.4 billion in beef and beef variety meats last year.

"This doesn’t mean that we will be shipping beef to Japan next week," Seng noted in the release. "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 …"

For more information regarding the working group and the complete American Embassy news release, visit www.usda.gov/Newsroom/0165.04.html.

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