U.S. Delegation Visit Fails to Resume Beef Trade

South Korea and Japan still not willing to set timelines for U.S. beef trade resumption.

After technical talks with South Korea and Japanese officials, a U.S. team of experts was unable to establish a timeline for trade resumption for U.S. beef.

The delegation, led by Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Charles Lambert, reviewed with the Asian countries how U.S. bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) prevention programs ensure the safety of U.S. beef. In addition, members of the delegation will encourage both governments to adopt import regulations that are in closer compliance with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) guidelines.

A Japanese agriculture ministry official said Monday that although the U.S. has provided the requested information on beef processing and surveillance programs, the Japanese government will now have to evaluate the new information to decide whether it needs more, Dow Jones reports.

The delegation was scheduled to remain in Japan for the talks until April 27, but it is not known whether the two sides will hold further talks this week. Dow Jones also reports Tokyo will send a delegation of its own to the U.S. in early May to evaluate if the U.S. is properly slaughtering and processing cattle.

Meatingplace.com reports that South Korean officials remain lukewarm to reestablishing trade, warning that it will not resume imports until consumers reach the conclusion that it is safe to eat U.S. beef. And even if there is a breakthrough in negotiations, it will take a considerable amount of time for the South Korean government to consult with consumers and farmers, the Web news site reports.

In 2003, the United States exported approximately $1.4 billion and $815 million of beef and beef products (including variety meats) to Japan and South Korea respectively. Together these markets represented 57 percent of total U.S. exports by value. To date, approximately $2.5 billion of U.S. beef and beef product exports to all destinations are still banned, with Japan and South Korea accounting for 87 percent of the export value. Over 60 countries import from the United States.

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