Japan relaxes beef import rules for U.S., Canada

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2013 - United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk and United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the United States and Japan have agreed on new terms and conditions which pave the way for expanded exports of U.S. beef and beef products to Japan, effective Feb. 1, 2013. A similar agreement was reached between Japan and Canada.

 Together we can feed the Bees

Under these new terms, Japan will now permit the import of beef from cattle less than 30 months of age, compared to the previous limit of 20 months, among other steps.

“This is great news for American ranchers and beef companies, who can now - as a result of this agreement - increase their exports of U.S. beef to their largest market for beef in Asia,” said Ambassador Kirk. “This represents a significant and historic step in expanding U.S. beef trade with Japan and growing American exports and jobs here at home. We welcome Japan's action.”

The agreement, which Japan has been considering since 2011, is estimated to result in hundreds of millions of dollars in exports of U.S. beef to Japan in the coming years. This agreement also goes a long way toward normalizing trade with Japan by addressing long-standing restrictions that Japan introduced in response to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

In December 2003, Japan banned U.S. beef and beef products following the detection of a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)-positive animal in the United States. In July 2006, Japan partially reopened its market to allow imports of some U.S. beef from animals aged 20 months or younger produced under a special program for Japan. 

 “We are in the most successful period in history for America's agriculture sector, with agricultural exports this year expected to set yet another record,” said Secretary Vilsack. “We will continue our efforts to break down barriers and expand access for high-quality, safe and wholesome U.S. food and agricultural products to Japan and around the world.”

The two governments also agreed to regular and ad hoc consultations to review progress under the agreement and address any issues that may arise. In an accompanying letter exchange, Japan also confirms its ongoing BSE risk assessment by its Food Safety Commission (FSC), which includes a consideration of raising the age limit above 30 months for beef and beef product imports from the United States, taking into account international standards.

To view the letter from Ambassador Kirk and Secretary Vilsack to Ambassador Sasae, click here. To view the letter from Ambassador Sasae to Ambassador Kirk and Secretary Vilsack, click here.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and International Trade Minister Ed Fast also announced the Government of Canada has reached an agreement with Japan to expand market access to Canadian beef from animals under 30 months of age (UTM) - an improvement over the current requirement which only permits beef exports from animals under 21 months of age. This expanded access is expected to double the potential market value of Canadian exports to Japan reaching up to $150 million annually.

Japanese authorities today confirmed the revision of Japan's import regulations for beef. The revised regulations will come into effect February 1, 2013.

"Our Government welcomes this expanded access for Canadian beef into the valuable Japanese market,” said Minister Ritz. "This agreement will put more top quality Canadian beef on Japanese store shelves while strengthening our producers' bottom lines and growing our overall economy.” 


This story was updated at 8:45 am to reflect Canadian agreement.



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