Japan’s farm minister hinted Tuesday that reaching a resolution in beef-trade talks with the United States may take a long time, despite the two countries’ desire to settle the issue of Japan’s beef import ban this summer.

“It’s difficult to tell the future schedule (of the talks) at this stage,” Yoshiyuki Kamei, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said.

Noting that the Cabinet Office’s Food Safety Commission has not yet made any clear decisions in its review of domestic measures against mad cow disease, Kamei said it will be hard to reach an early settlement.

Kamei repeated Japan’s position that to remove its import ban, the United States must implement safety measures similar to those Japan has put into place against mad cow disease.

Tokyo imposed the ban after the first U.S. case of the brain-wasting disease was confirmed in a Canadian-born cow in December.

“Taking measures equivalent of those in Japan is a basic requirement” for the removal of the ban, Kamei said. “We will approach the talks in such a way as to avoid damaging consumer trust.”

Before removing its import ban, Tokyo wants the U.S. to agree to test all slaughtered cattle for mad cow disease or provide equivalent safety assurances. Washington maintains blanket testing is unscientific.

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