Kansas lawmaker gets impatient with beef ban

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran summoned the Japanese ambassador to the United States to his office Wednesday and urged Japan to lift its import ban on U.S. beef as soon as possible.

Ryozo Kato told reporters after the meeting he refused to give any timeline, saying Japan needed more time and was not intentionally delaying its response to the 470-page U.S. report on an investigation into the January veal shipment that violated the bilateral accord and triggered the reinstatement of the ban.

Moran, a Republican from Kansas, a major beef exporting state, is a hardliner on the beef issue. He sponsored a resolution last year to impose economic sanctions on Japan over the original two-year-old import ban on U.S. beef.

Asked about the growing frustration in Congress about the reinstated ban and Japan’s slow response to the report, issued more than 10 days ago, Kato said the Japanese government “is not intentionally taking its time” to delay a resumption of beef imports.

Stressing the importance of regaining consumer confidence in Japan, Kato said he explained to the congressman that Tokyo is “aggressively and seriously” analyzing the report and will ask for additional information from the U.S. side should any questions arise.

“That’s the process,” Kato said. “I’m not in a position to give a timeline.”

Japan reinstated the import restriction on Jan. 20, only a month after the original ban was lifted, because parts of spinal column, prohibited under the bilateral accord due to its potential high risk of mad cow disease, was discovered in the veal shipment at Narita International Airport.

In the investigation report issued last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture admitted there was a flaw in its inspection system to meet compliance with the bilateral agreement and vowed to take various corrective measures.

However, the USDA said the incident was a “unique” case in which the meatpacker and inspectors — in the first export of veal to Japan — were not adequately aware of the terms agreed to by the U.S.

The USDA also said the meat posed no health risk to the public.