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September 05, 2012

Baucus pleased Japan is considering easing US beef restrictions

A powerful Senate Democrat expressed support on Wednesday for the Japanese government's efforts to reduce restrictions on U.S. beef, providing more opportunities for exporters.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) acknowledged that Tokyo is considering expanding its imports of U.S. beef to animals up to 30 months old from the previous 20-month threshold.

"We’re headed in the right direction," Baucus said in a statement.

"U.S. beef — from cattle of all ages — is the safest in the world and I am confident we will continue to expand exports on the global market.”

Baucus said he had "very constructive meetings" with Japanese leaders in Tokyo last month in seeking to expand U.S. beef exports into the market while strengthening trade ties between the two nations.

During that trip, he specifically pressed the scientific case for lifting the ban on U.S. beef.

Meanwhile, Japan has professed interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, which are set to continue this week in Leesburg, Va., but has not made a formal request for a seat at the negotiating table.

Trade experts and lawmakers argue that to gain entry into the talks, Tokyo needs to open its market to more exports, especially U.S. automobiles.

A panel of experts recommended the age increase to 30 months to Japan’s Food Safety Commission, which will gather public comment on the proposed new policy before implementation.

Last year, Japan was the third-largest export market for U.S. beef, after Mexico and Canada.

Japan banned U.S. cattle in 2003 when bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease, was found in the United States.

View article here.