• Kyodo

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Japan is set to impose an emergency tariff hike on U.S. beef imports later this week, as the volume for fiscal 2020 is believed to have topped 242,000 metric tons, beyond which safeguard measures are implemented, government sources said Tuesday.

If invoked, the tariff will jump from 25.8% to 38.5% for a month under a bilateral trade agreement that came into effect in January 2020.

The resulting increases in prices for fresh, chilled and frozen U.S. beef will “not likely have a major impact on consumers,” agriculture minister Kotaro Nogami told a news conference Tuesday, citing a relatively small margin of increase that will only be in place for 30 days.

Nogami declined to comment on whether the government would impose the emergency measure, but the sources said it could be implemented Thursday.

For fiscal 2020, which started last April, Japan’s cumulative U.S. beef imports totaled 233,112 tons at the end of February, according to Finance Ministry data, and may well have surpassed the agreed upon aggregate volume threshold by early March.

Japanese consumption of U.S. beef has surged amid a drop in beef imports from drought-hit Australia, according to the sources.

When the safeguard is triggered, Japan and the United States must start consultations within 10 days to adjust the applicable safeguard trigger to a higher level, according to their agreement.

Japan last imposed a safeguard tariff against U.S. frozen beef imports in August 2017.

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