Almost two years into Japan's ban on U.S. beef due to Mad Cow Disease concerns, Japan's Food Safety Commission has still not announced a decision on if or when it would reopen its border. But a recent draft recommendation by an F.S.C. panel that the risk of importing U.S. beef back in was low, and that beef from American cows twenty one months and younger should be allowed in, is a positive step in reopening the border. However, it is one of what has been, and will appear to be, several steps in Japan's regulatory process in getting the border reopened. The final report and the recommendation in it is due the end of the month. By the time the main Commission and Japan's health and agriculture departments consider the matter, and hold public hearings, it could be as early as December when U.S. beef returns to Japan. But that is a line many supporters of the U.S. beef industry have heard before. Just ask Patrick Boyle of the American Meat Institute.
BOYLE: What is also frustrating is that we are twelve months away from the so called agreement reached in October of 2004 between the U.S. and Japan to reopen that market. But the bureaucrats in Tokyo continue to find ways to make sure that market remains closes to American beef exports.
It was that slow but sure process that led some in Congress to consider pushing for retaliatory sanctions against Japan. But that stance was pushed even more after a F.S.C. report last week stated that the full commission was in no rush, and did not need to be rushed, in making a decision. That web report at the Japanese F.S.C. website also said risk of b.s.e infection of U.S. cattle is several times higher than that of Japanese beef. So maybe the F.S.C. panel announcement that Japanese beef could be as much or more at risk to b.s.e. as American beef was a way to save face? Some speculate that is the case, considering the reaction of Congressional types like Kansas Senator Pat Roberts.
ROBERTS: Japan has had twenty confirmed cases of b.s.e., while the United States has had only two cases. None ever entered the food supply. It is simply inaccurate to call the U.S. beef supply unsafe.
And while Congress considers if sanctions will go forward, there are others who still believe it will be diplomacy and diplomatic pressure, not retaliatory tariffs that will finally get the border open. Then again others say Japan may once again be stalling. A look at both viewpoints is coming up in our next program.