November 14, 2011
The Japanese government has started to review restrictions on US beef imports, Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba told US Trade Representative Ron Kirk on Thursday (Nov 10).
Japan has decided to re-evaluate existing measures against the brain-wasting disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, and will seek the advice of the Cabinet Office's Food Safety Commission, Genba told Kirk at a meeting in Honolulu.
The reassessment process is the first step toward Japan easing its restrictions on US beef imports.
While welcoming the move, Kirk again urged Tokyo to bring in internationally consistent rules on the basis of scientific knowledge, according to Japanese sources.
Currently, Japan limits US beef imports to meat from cattle that are up to 20 months, which are at low risk of BSE infection. It is considering an option of raising the age limit to 30 months.
The foreign minister also briefed Kirk on the debate in Tokyo over whether Japan should join talks on the expansion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.
Washington intends to await the results of the discussions, Kirk said, according to the sources.
Genba and Kirk held the talks on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.