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WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The U.S. Senate passed a measure Tuesday prohibiting Washington from resuming the import of Japanese beef until Tokyo lifts its ban on U.S. beef.

The move came after the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed last month easing a four-year import restriction on Japanese beef, though an expert panel has yet to give the go-ahead to lift Japan’s 21-month import ban on U.S. beef.

Each country imposed its ban after the discovery of mad cow disease in the other country.

“It sends a strong message to the Japanese government that the United States is committed to fair trade,” said Sen. Ben Nelson, who sponsored the measure as an amendment to the fiscal 2006 agriculture appropriations bill.

“It is unfair, unwise and unhealthy for the economy to allow one country to increase its imports while not allowing the same privilege for America,” the Nebraska Democrat said.

The Senate endorsed the amendment in a 72-26 vote. It prohibits the administration from using appropriated funds to reopen the market to Japanese beef unless the president certifies to Congress that Japan has lifted its ban and granted U.S. beef access to the Japanese market.

In a related development, the Senate unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution urging the government to maintain the import restriction until Japan resumes imports.

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