Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Kent Conrad, D-N.D., introduced legislation Wednesday to impose tariffs on Japanese products if a date is not set to reopen the Japanese market to U.S. beef.
"[Wednesday's] announcement that the Japanese intend to open their markets to U.S. beef is a step forward, but Japan must make good on its commitment. Until there is a specific date for actual trade to resume, and product is at port in Japan, it's not a done deal." Roberts says. "We have been through this before and need to demonstrate to the Japanese that U.S. beef is safe."
At issue is the continued delay by the Japanese Food Safety Commission in resuming normal beef trade, based on internationally recognized science, after the discovery in January of spinal cord material in a single shipment of U.S. beef.
The legislation, introduced by Roberts and Conrad with wide bipartisan support, sets deadlines by which the U.S. Trade Representative must certify that Japan has reopened its borders to American beef. According to the bill, USTR must provide this certification or lack thereof to Congress by August 31, 2006.
Should Japan fail to reopen its market by August 31, 2006 the bill directs the U.S. Department of Treasury to impose additional tariffs on selected articles grown, produced or manufactured in Japan in an amount equal to $2.7 billion by August 31, 2006. The goods subject to these additional tariffs will be selected at the discretion of the Treasury Department. The tariffs will continue until USTR can certify to Congress that Japan has indeed reopened its market to American beef.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association said in a statement: "Ranchers are tired of hearing reports from countless meetings and investigative visits between the two nations, dragging out for weeks, then months, and now years and ending with announcements of unfulfilled promises. This is not called fair trade, its called 'crying wolf.'"
NCBA says the Japanese government has left the industry with no viable option if trade isn't resumed quickly. "Japan must recognize that the United States far exceeds all OIE guidelines for freely exporting beef and beef products from cattle 30 months of age or less. These science-based BSE guidelines were endorsed by more than 160 countries at the latest meeting of the OIE last month," says NCBA President Mike John.
"Who are the Japanese officials to insinuate that U.S. beef is less than safe, when they've had 26 cases of BSE in a cattle herd that is roughly 3.5% the size of the U.S. herd? It's just plain outrageous. They refuse U.S. beef because they refuse to stand for science-based trade policies and instead prefer political stonewalling," John adds.
NCBA states each day the Japanese market remains closed, the U.S. beef industry suffers a negative economic impact of approximately $6.7 million. Since the border was closed following the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the United States in December 2003, the beef industry has lost an estimated $6.07 billion.