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Bush sees progress on Mad Cow

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Bush Sees Progress in US-Canada Beef Trade Problem

Wednesday, March 23, 2005 1:54:20 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and Canada are working out beef and cattle trade problems stemming from mad cow disease in both countries, U.S. President George W. Bush said on Wednesday.

"We had an issue with cows and that is getting resolved," Bush told reporters following meetings in Texas with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and Mexican President Vicente Fox.

The United States banned all imports of Canadian beef and cattle in May 2003, after Canada discovered its first domestic case of mad cow disease.

Since then, the United States has allowed some Canadian beef imports. But heavy congressional lobbying and lawsuits from a U.S. rancher group have indefinitely halted the Bush administration's plans to further open the border to Canadian beef and live cattle.

Bush gave no timetable for normalized beef trade between the United States and Canada.

The three leaders discussions centered on trade, immigration and security issues.

Canada's decision to abstain from a Bush-led missile defense program has raised some questions about the ability of the two countries to cooperate in other areas, including trade.

Bush on Wednesday dismissed that notion, saying: "Just because somebody doesn't agree with our policy, doesn't mean that we can't continue to have very positive relationships."

He specifically mentioned progress on beef trade but noted that a larger U.S.-Canada fight over lumber trade continues to boil after four years.

U.S. and Canadian officials were meeting in Toronto on Wednesday in hopes of making progress on a disagreement over $6 billion in annual softwood lumber that Canada sells in the United States. The Bush administration has set import tariffs on that wood to offset alleged unfair trade practices that Canada denies.

Martin complained about the beef trade disruption, saying: "We look forward to the day in the future when, notwithstanding all of the lobbying, all the legal challenges, all of North America is open to our safe and high-quality beef."

Without naming specific groups, Martin said that beef trade should be based on "sound science that will help us avoid the risk of hidden protectionism that some would advocate in responding to BSE."

Some members of the U.S. Congress, along with R-CALF USA, a U.S. rancher group, want to stop all Canadian beef and cattle imports indefinitely, especially after the discovery of two more cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, in Canada this year.

The United States has had one confirmed case, in a cow slaughtered in Washington state in December 2003. That animal was raised in Canada.


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