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Japan and the United States will probably not make major progress toward lifting Japan’s ban on U.S. beef imports during next week’s bilateral summit, farm minister Yoshiyuki Kamei indicated Friday.

“Considering developments in the past, such as a debate on (what age would be appropriate for examining) cows, I suppose we still face a lot of difficulties,” the agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister told a news conference, referring to next Tuesday’s summit between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush in New York.

Japan imposed the import ban after the first case of mad cow disease was found in the United States last December. Tokyo has insisted that U.S. beef be tested in the same manner it is in Japan.

Tokyo wants all slaughtered beef cattle aged 20 months or older to be checked for the brain-wasting disease, but the United States only requires testing on beef from cattle aged 24 months or older, according to negotiation sources.

Kamei was positive about the resumption Friday of “gyudon” beef-on-rice sales by Zensho Co., which runs the Sukiya restaurant chain, using Australian beef in place of U.S. beef.

“It is necessary for each company to meet consumers’ demands with its own ingenuity,” he said.

The Tokyo-based company is the first of Japan’s major gyudon chains to put the dish back on the menu after they stopped serving it in February, amid Japan’s ban on U.S. beef.

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