U.S.-Japan Set Framework
TOKYO (April 24, 2004) – U.S. and Japanese governments today agreed to protocols aimed at the resumption of beef exports to Japan, traditionally the No. 1 export market for U.S. beef. U.S. beef and beef variety meat exports to Japan in 2003 neared 376,000 metric tons and were valued at $1.4 billion.
“There is a meeting of minds about the need to resolve the current ban,” said Paul Clayton, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Vice President, Export Services, who along with Vice President, Asian Pacific, Joel Haggard, was in Tokyoas a resource to the USDA delegation.
USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng, speaking from Denver, said: “This is encouraging news and the first and most important step toward resumption of trade.”
Under the agreement, spelled out in a joint English and Japanese press release issued late Saturday night in Tokyo(http://www.usda.gov/Newsroom/0165.04.html), the U.S. and Japan will “actively engage in consultations, including a working group…over the period of this summer. At the same time, the two sides will respectively pursue domestic discussions and make efforts so as to reach a final conclusion by sometime around summer on the resumption of the importation of both American and Japanese beef.”
Initial Japanese media reaction to the press release Saturday night was relatively muted, Haggard reported, with several television stations providing brief and factual coverage of the major elements of the press release. Members of the trade media contacted by USMEF, however, expressed some surprise at the absence of government of Japan references in either the press release or the post-meeting press briefing to 100-percent BSE testing, a measure Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fish and Forestry (MAFF) officials have publicly stated would have to be undertaken by the U.S. cattle industry in order to regain export eligibility to Japan.
During a post-meeting press briefing, Japanese media questions directed toward Japanese officials largely focused on what appeared to be a softening in the Japan position on comprehensive BSE testing. Japan Food Safety Commission officials stated that Japan’s current domestic 100-percent testing requirement would be re-evaluated. Moreover, it is understood that the first technical item for discussion by the working group – the “definition” of BSE – may consist of further analysis of Japan’s positive test results of two very young animals, age 21 and 23 months, the youngest animals to test positive for BSE under routine surveillance programs. Various officials, politicians and consumer groups have cited the two findings as justification for maintaining a 100-percent testing regime, while others question whether the animals were, in fact, actually positive for BSE.
The agreement, phrased in the press release as a “shared…recognition,” calls for the establishment of a technical working group, composed of technical experts from both sides, who will meet monthly until this summer to discuss six technical issues: 1) definition of BSE and method of testing; 2) definition of specified risk materials and the method of removal; 3) appropriate surveillance; 4) appropriate feed ban implementation; 5) cattle month-age identification; and 6) other issues. The working group is to be “launched” in mid-May, and is to be composed of BSE experts and working level government officials from both sides. The framework also calls for U.S.-Japanese consultations during the working group deliberations at the undersecretary/director-general level should it be needed. Finally, the framework calls for communication with the public, via press briefings, by the working group.
“This doesn’t mean that we will be shipping beef to Japan next week,” Seng noted. “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. This is a critical and needed first step. I compliment the negotiating teams of both countries for their effort to establish this framework for future discussions.”
In 2003, according to USDA statistics, total U.S. beef and beef variety meat exports increased 3 percent in volume to 1.28 million metric tons, while value increased 21 percent to $3.86 billion. Exports now account for nearly 13 percent of U.S. beef production on a wholesale weight basis.
The U.S. Meat Export Federation is the trade association responsible for developing international markets for the U.S. red meat industry and is funded by USDA, exporting companies, and the beef, pork, corn, sorghum and soybean checkoff programs.
– USMEF –
(Additional comments by USMEF President Seng are available online at http://www.usmef.org.)