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Japan did not set a date Friday for lifting its import ban on U.S. beef in a report it submitted to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in reaction to the USTR’s call for an early resumption of imports.

“Japan cannot predict a specific time frame of the resumption at this juncture of the review” of domestic steps to detect mad cow disease, the report says. “This is not a trade issue, but a food safety issue,” Japan said, stressing the need for food safety and consumer confidence “as a prerequisite as well as based on science.”

The beef issue has been at the center of a bilateral dispute.

Japan presented the report after the USTR said it would “continue to press Japan on this important issue at all levels of the U.S. government until U.S. beef exports resume” in the National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers.

But Japan said it also remained committed to making efforts to resolve the trade conflict in the report, titled “Comments of the Government of Japan on the NTE Report.”

Tokyo said it “shares the understanding with the U.S. government on the necessity of an early solution of the issue, and is of the view that this should not be a significant impediment to bilateral relations.”

Japan, without exception, has halted the import of beef and beef products from countries affected by bovine spongiform encephalopathy until steps applied to them are demonstrated to achieve the equivalent level of protection to those applied to Japanese beef and beef products, the report says.

“Those whole processes are fully compliant with an agreement of the World Trade Organization,” Japan contended.

Japan also tried to assuage dissatisfaction among some in the United States who say Tokyo has failed to follow up on an “agreement” that the two countries reached during bilateral talks on the issue that ended Oct. 23 in Tokyo.

The report says Japan “points out that the (Oct. 23) Joint Press Statement describes that the two governments ‘shared the view,’ ” instead of ‘agreed,’ ” as the USTR report said.

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