WASHINGTON (Kyodo) U.S. Trade Representative nominee Rob Portman said Thursday that pressing Japan to quickly lift its 16-month-old import ban on U.S. beef is his “top priority.”

“I share your great frustration there,” Portman told a Senate confirmation hearing, referring to increasing political pressure in Congress to slap retaliatory sanctions on Japan if it fails to speed up its domestic procedures to resume imports.

“If I’m confirmed, that will be a top priority,” said the Republican House of Representative, nominated to take over the top trade negotiator post from Robert Zoellick.

Beef import talks

The health and agriculture ministries said Friday that Japanese and U.S. teams of experts will meet in Tokyo next week to discuss the lifting of Japan’s ban on U.S. beef imports.

The U.S. team is expected to urge Japan to promptly remove the 16-month import ban, stressing the safety of U.S. beef, and to ease its safety standards in compliance with the World Organization for Animal Health guidelines.

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