Japan to finish US beef plant audits by July 21

By: | at 08:00 PM | International Trade  

Japan is expected to wrap up its audit of US beef producing plants by July 21, paving the way for a resumption of US exports to Japan, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

The USDA, in a prepared statement on June 21, said teams of Japanese auditors, “will arrive in the US this weekend and conclude their work by July 21. Upon completion of the audits, Japan has agreed to expeditiously resume beef trade.”

US and Japanese negotiators reached an agreement early on June 21 that bridged several disagreements between the two countries on how beef trade would resume. That agreement is expected to be implemented soon after the audits are completed.

USDA Secretary Mike Johanns said that he is pleased with the deal reached by negotiators, but stressed he will “not be satisfied until US beef is once again accepted into the Japanese market.”

US and Japanese negotiators met for eight hours in two video conference sessions on June 20 and into the morning June 21 to resolve their differences. One sticky issue was US demands that Japan provide assurances that it won’t allow future non-compliance issues with individual shipments to disrupt all beef trade.

Johanns said he believes that was accomplished.

“When that occurs, my expectation is that minor noncompliance issues will not disrupt our entire trading relationship,” Johanns said. “Instead, Japan has agreed to notify us of such issues and discuss the appropriate course, such as the rejection of individual shipments, if appropriate.”

It was one such veal shipment that contained prohibited material - vertebral column - that prompted Japan to reinstate its ban on US beef in January. That shut-down happened only a month after Japan had eased a two-year ban.

The original two-year ban was put on US beef in reaction to the first discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease, in the US.

Japan was the largest foreign market for US beef in 2003.

“Japan has been conducting an exhaustive examination to confirm the safety of US beef and these audits must constitute the final step,” Johanns said. “We have instituted numerous changes in our system, answered every question posed by Japan, and delivered an abundance of factual, science-based assurances that US beef is safe. It is time for beef trade to resume with Japan.” (Dow Jones)


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