Japan will not be pressured by the United States into speeding up a review of its ban on U.S. beef, the top government spokesman said Friday, ahead of discussions between the two countries on the trade spat scheduled for next week.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said a resumption of U.S. beef imports would depend solely on whether public safety concerns are met, and would not happen solely in response to prodding from Washington.
“We must not allow the scheduling and procedures to be altered by U.S. pressure,” Abe told a press conference, “This problem needs to be handled from the perspective of risk management and public safety.”
Tokyo embargoed U.S. beef in January after a shipment of veal was found to contain backbone, in violation of an agreement reached between Tokyo and Washington prohibiting specified risk materials, including brain and spinal cord, from imported beef. The accord lifted Japan’s earlier two-year-old ban on U.S. beef after the first case of mad cow disease was discovered in the United States.
The U.S. Agriculture Department issued a report in February detailing two companies’ involvement in the veal shipment. American officials in March pledged to improve training at companies handling Japan-bound beef.
Japanese and American officials may meet as early as next week to discuss lifting the ban, the two countries announced earlier this week.
Japan will present the results of its consultations with consumers about U.S. beef at the meeting, said Naomi Morikawa, a spokesman for the agriculture ministry. Consumer fears of mad cow disease have greatly eroded the popularity of American beef in Japan, once the largest overseas market for U.S. beef.