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Serving: United States

Harkin Pushes for Japan Beef Trade Resumption Timeline

Letter recommends future agreement to ban only packers violating rules established between the two countries, instead of a blanket ban against the entire beef industry.

In a letter to the Japanese Ambassador to the United States Ryozo Kato, Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, urged the Japanese Government to establish a concrete timeline and commit to quickly resume U.S. beef exports to Japan.

The market in Japan was reopened late last year but was quickly closed again following a violation by a U.S. beef packer in January. "There is a limit to how long Japan can reasonably expect the United States to wait. We've made substantial efforts to meet Japan's expectations. In light of these efforts, I urged the Japanese Government to resume beef trade within a reasonable timetable," Harkin says.

Harkin's letter also recommends a future agreement that would ban only packers violating rules established between the two countries, instead of a blanket ban against the entire beef industry. Such a policy would allow beef trade to continue for other exporting packers while cutting off only those establishments breaking the agreed upon terms.

"The entire beef industry should not bear the responsibility of one violating facility," says Harkin. "Once beef trade is reestablished, we need to agree on a framework that will help avoid similar messes in the future. By all accounts, the U.S. beef supply is safe and we should ensure parties that play by the rules can continue to do business overseas." 

Last month, Harkin received a letter from the Japanese Ambassador outlining steps that must be taken by the Government of Japan before resuming beef trade. At a meeting with members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry last month, Harkin pressed the Ambassador for a timeline to resuming beef trade. To date, the Japanese have not established any such timeline.

In his letter, Harkin expressed concern about Japan's risk communication meeting, or focus groups, with Japan consumers that are being conducted during the first half of June. "I would like to know how consumer feedback from these meetings will be evaluated, and how that information will impact the resumption of U.S. beef exports to Japan," he writes.

He adds that in a letter of May 24 and in a May meeting, the ambassador said that U.S. beef imports will be allowed upon showing that U.S. plants meet Japan's standards. "While I understand the need to communicate with Japanese consumers about this issue, negative feedback of a subjective nature from the planned focus groups cannot trump evidence from Japanese audits of U.S. facilities demonstrating they meet Japan's requirements."


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