• Kyodo

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The United States urged Japan on Monday not to impose emergency measures to curb beef imports from the U.S. and other countries, as expected later this year.

In an annual trade policy report submitted to Congress, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative also called on Japan to further open up its rice market and pressed Japan and the European Union to reduce farm tariffs and subsidies for a successful conclusion of the new round of global trade talks.

“The United States is very concerned over indications that Japan will increase tariffs on beef . . . through imposition of an emergency beef tariff measure,” the report says.

“While the U.S. acknowledges the technical trigger for imposing this measure, the United States considers its use under the existing circumstances to be improper,” it says.

Japan is the biggest beef export market for the U.S., purchasing more than $1.2 billion worth of U.S. beef in 2001.

Under a World Trade Organization agreement set out in the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade talks, Japan can automatically increase its beef tariff from 38.5 percent to 50 percent if there is an increase of more than 17 percent in beef imports in a three-month period from a year before.

There is a growing possibility of Japan launching the emergency import curb measure as early as this summer.

Emergency import restriction measures allowed under WTO rules are intended to aid domestic producers confronted with import surges, but the current situation in Japan indicates beef imports are merely recovering from severely depressed levels following the September 2001 outbreak of mad cow disease in Japanese cattle, the Office of the USTR said.

“Imposition of this safeguard will threaten this recovery and harm not only U.S. beef producers but also a full range of Japanese beef consumers, including the food service, grocery and restaurant industries,” the office said. “The United States will continue to urge Japan (to) suspend this measure.”

The report also says the U.S. has expressed ongoing concerns over the U.S. market share of Japan’s overall rice imports in recent years.

The U.S. administration “will continue to press Japan for increased access to its rice market,” it says.

In the report, the USTR reiterated its policy of giving priority to liberalizing the farm sector at the new round of global trade talks launched by the WTO in November 2001.

The U.S. criticized Japan and the EU for being reluctant to take drastic measures to liberalize agricultural trade and urged them to substantially cut farm tariffs and subsidies for a successful conclusion of the new round by January 2005.

“The European Union, Japan and other members with high tariff and subsidy levels did not come forward with specific or forthcoming modality proposals, instead making general proposals for marginal reform,” the report says.

The WTO has set a March 31 deadline for an accord on “modalities,” including tariff and subsidy reduction formulas but farm trade talks have been stalled due to confrontation between farm product importers, such as Japan and the EU, and exporters, including the U.S.

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