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WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted Thursday in support of a nonbinding statement supporting sanctions against Japan if Tokyo fails to resume imports of American beef by the end of the summer.

The statement, expressing the “Sense of the Senate” for the Treasury secretary to impose punitive tariffs worth up to $3.14 billion annually on Japanese goods, was attached as an amendment in a voice vote to the fiscal 2007 agriculture funding bill.

The statement is similar to the binding bill introduced Wednesday by a bipartisan group of 14 senators from major farm-producing states. The bill sets an Aug. 31 deadline for Japan to resume imports.

The tough moves in Congress came after the two nations agreed Wednesday that Japan will lift its reinstated import ban on U.S. beef after inspecting U.S. meatpacking plants to confirm safeguard measures against mad cow disease are being implemented. The inspections are expected to be completed in about a month.

In Tokyo on Friday, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Shoichi Nakagawa dismissed the bill as “nonsense.”

Nakagawa, speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, said although he understands the political situation of the U.S., he noted this is bad timing for the bill because the two countries had just struck a deal on the thorny issue.

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