Talks set to resume U.S. beef imports

Compiled From Kyodo, AP

Tokyo and Washington will hold talks in February to begin the necessary preparations to partially lift Japan’s ban on U.S. beef as early as summer, Japanese government sources said Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, the head of a Japanese government panel welcomed a U.S. offer to provide strict verification of animals’ ages, moving the two sides toward a conclusion of talks on the issue.

The talks are expected to clear the way for Japan to resume importing U.S. beef partially.

The ban has been in place since December 2003 after the first U.S. case of mad cow disease was found in a Canadian-born cow in Washington state.

“We feel we have reached a mutual resolution for trade resumption . . . and that that resolution is close at hand,” Chuck Lambert, deputy undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s marketing and regulatory programs, told reporters in Tokyo.

At a meeting with Japanese experts in Tokyo, the United States presented a 44-page final report on the effectiveness of its method to check the age of the animals by examining their physiological maturity from the quality of beef.

A delegation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture told the experts that a group of cattle classified as A40 by beef-quality examinations was in the age range of 12 to 17 months.

U.S. officials claimed that even considering the margin of error, export of the A40 group would fulfill a requirement by Tokyo that only products from animals up to 20 months old should be imported to Japan.

U.S. officials proposed that the country will only export to Japan beef from the A40 group of cattle and products from cows whose ages have been verified through other programs, including age tracking with birth certificates.

In total, those animals would account for up to 35 percent of all U.S. cows slaughtered for consumption, according to Lambert.