Japan Trade Resumption 'Close At Hand'

Reports say Japan may be ready to accept U.S. age determination methods.

The wait for trade resumption with Japan may be nearing an end. The Associated Press reports that the United States and Japan had "reached a mutual resolution for trade resumption" and that a "resolution is close at hand," according to Chuck Lambert, deputy under secretary for USDA's marketing and regulatory programs.

The two sides tentatively agreed to allow beef from cattle under 21 months of age. The main point of contention remains how to verify the age of cattle since very few farmers have birth records for individual animals. The United States predominantly depends on birth records for herds and a grading system that uses tenderness of the meat to judge age.

Lambert told reporters in Tokyo that experts had "narrowed those differences after U.S. officials proposed a method by which a cow's age can be determined by looking at the maturity of its skeleton," the article reports.

Trade should resume if Japanese officials consider the latest proposal and accept the skeletal method, Lambert says. However, it is not clear when Japanese officials would make their decision.

As Japanese borders remain closed, selling the Canada border reopening is becoming more difficult. The Senate Agriculture Committee has scheduled a hearing for Feb. 3 on the border. If more progress on Japanese trade resumption is made before that date, "opponents of re-opening the border could have one less arrow in their quiver of arguments," says Keith Good, writer of FarmPolicy.com Web blog.

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