September 12, 2003



Japan, US Will Have To Rewrite Beef Trade Program Soon


The U.S. and Japan will likely have to begin talks soon to rewrite a program that allows U.S. beef exports to flow to Japan because the U.S. Department of Agriculture is preparing to allow live Canadian cattle across the border, officials with the U.S.-based National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) said Thursday.


Japan only allows the entry of U.S. beef because of USDA assurances that none is derived from Canadian cattle.


Chandler Keys, an NCBA vice president, told reporters in a teleconference that he expects it will take USDA about six months to be ready to open the border to Canadian live cattle and that negotiations with Japan will have to begin sooner than that so U.S. beef exports to Japan will not be disrupted.


Keys said: "Sometime this winter, we're going to have to get back with the Japanese and say 'We're getting ready to open this border (to Canadian live cattle), and how are we going to handle it with you?' "


A USDA official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that a renegotiation with Japan will be necessary.


As of now, the official said, no Canadian cattle are being slaughtered in the U.S. so it was easy to assure the Japanese that all of the beef from U.S. slaughterhouses are of U.S. origin. That will change, though, as soon as the U.S. reopens the border to Canadian cattle.


"The way the ... program reads is it certifies that this beef is from (U.S.) cattle ... so obviously if cattle come in (from Canada) then that statement will not meet Japan's needs," the USDA official said.


The U.S. and Japan banned all Canadian beef and cattle when a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease, was discovered there on May 20.


Concerned about beef exports from the U.S., because of the country's proximity and strong history of trade with Canada, Japan demanded the U.S. certify that its beef exports were not derived from Canadian cattle.


The U.S. agreed and created the Beef Export Verification program to certify U.S. processors complied with Japan's demands.


Japan, the largest U.S. beef market, imported 122,142 metric tons of beef from the U.S. in the first five months of 2003, a 22% increase from 99,997 tons in the same time period last year, according USDA data compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
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