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Feb 10, 2005
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U.S.-Japan Battle over Beef Ban Heats Up

TOKYO (DTN) -- Ambassador to the United States Ryozo Kato quietly returned to Tokyo for consultations with Japanese government officials late this week as sharply escalating frustrations are spilling over on both sides of the Pacific Ocean about slow progress in easing Japan's BSE-triggered ban on American beef imports, DTN has learned.

Mad cow disease is not the only reason for the trip, diplomatic sources said. But during the past couple weeks pressure for action from members of the U.S. Congress -- the Senate and House of Representatives -- has resulted in warnings of trade sanctions. That alone may have prompted the trip, though the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declines to comment further.

Japan, along with other U.S. beef-importing nations, stopped beef shipments nearly 15 months ago when the first case of BSE was found in Washington state.

More than 50 U.S. House representatives submitted a resolution Thursday urging U.S. trade negotiators to impose immediate economic measures on Japan for its prolonged ban on imports of American beef due to mad cow disease.

That followed a move in February by a group of 20 U.S. Senators from agricultural states who sent a joint letter to the Japanese ambassador that threatened to pursue what they described as "equitable, retaliatory economic actions" if Japan fails to quickly lift the ban imposed Dec. 24, 2003. At the time, virtually all of America's beef customers also banned the U.S. product, including South Korea, the industry's second-largest customer.

The Japanese press, however, has said U.S. lawmakers are just about as inconsistent about bilateral beef trade as Japan's elected representatives.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution that that would thwart USDA's own attempt at reopening the market to live Canadian cattle younger than 30 months old. The U.S. banned Canadian beef in May 2003 after Canada reported its first case of BSE.

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