The Hill
January 28, 2013

US, Japan strike new beef trade deal

U.S. officials hailed a new agreement with Japan that will allow American farmers to export millions of dollars' worth of beef to the Asian nation.

Under the new compromise, American exporters will be able to ship to Japan beef from cattle that are less than 30 months old. Previously, Japan would only accept U.S. beef from cattle ages 20 months and younger. Administration officials hailed the change as a boon to U.S. cattle ranchers.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) praised the decision as a win for his home state, while noting that it came after he brought up the issue with Japan's prime minister during a trade mission last summer.

"This is a win for ranchers in Montana and across the country and will mean more exports and more jobs here in the U.S.," he said. "Japan is a huge market for our beef exports, and I’m thrilled it’s finally taken a big step toward accepting sound science and welcoming more of our exports."

He added that ultimately he would like to see Japan drop all age-related restrictions on U.S. beef.

"This is great news for American ranchers and beef companies, who can now — as a result of this agreement — increase their exports of U.S. beef to their largest market for beef in Asia," said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. “This represents a significant and historic step in expanding U.S. beef trade with Japan and growing American exports and jobs here at home. We welcome Japan’s action.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the new policy underlines the Obama administration's commitment to the nation's farmers.

"We are in the most successful period in history for America’s agriculture sector, with agricultural exports this year expected to set yet another record,” he said. “We will continue our efforts to break down barriers and expand access for high-quality, safe and wholesome U.S. food and agricultural products to Japan and around the world.”

In 2003, Japan halted the import of beef and beef products from the United States after an animal tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or "mad cow" disease. It partially reopened its markets to U.S. beef in 2006, accepting products from cattle ages 20 months or younger.

Under the arrangement, the U.S. and Japan have agreed to regularly consult and review the agreement, adjusting it as needed.

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