MOUNT JULIET, Tenn. (DTN) -- Japan has agreed to eliminate longstanding restrictions on U.S. beef exports, including the 30-month cattle age limit, effective immediately.
USDA estimates this expanded access could increase U.S. beef and beef product exports to Japan by up to $200 million each year.
The agreement, struck on the sidelines of last week's G-20 Agriculture Ministerial Meeting in Japan, allows U.S. products from all cattle regardless of age to enter Japan for the first time since 2003. In a news release, USDA Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue stressed the importance of having science-based trade rules.
"This is great news for American ranchers and exporters who now have full access to the Japanese market for their high-quality, safe, wholesome, and delicious U.S. beef," Perdue said. "We are hopeful that Japan's decision will help lead other markets around the world toward science-based policies."
Perdue also said it's an important step in normalizing trade with Japan as the country works to align its import requirements with global standards for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
Japan banned all U.S. beef and beef product imports in 2003 following the detection of a BSE-positive cow. It allowed imports from animals 20 months of age and younger in 2005, then increased that limit to 30 months in 2013.
National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Jennifer Houston praised Perdue and the Trump administration in a statement, giving them credit for helping knock down the trade barrier.
"This underscores the safety of the U.S. beef herd, and it will hopefully send a signal to other Asian nations that non-science-based trade barriers like this one should be eliminated in their countries, as well," she stated. "Tariff rates grab all the headlines, but non-tariff barriers are often just as important, if not more so, when it comes to determining market access. Hopefully this will help spotlight this important point and lead to more trade victories in the near future."
The U.S. Meat Export Federation also praised the news, calling it "a major step toward putting BSE in the rear view mirror when it comes to global beef trade."
While most of the U.S. beef shipped to Japan will continue to be from fed cattle under 30 months of age, it said the opportunities for over-30-month beef cuts and beef variety meat are significant, with exports increasing by 7% to 10%.
USMEF said both muscle cuts, variety meats and processed beef products stand to gain under the new guidelines.
"But for the U.S. industry to fully capitalize on this growth opportunity, U.S. beef needs to be on a level playing field in Japan. So USMEF is also anxious to see progress in the U.S.-Japan trade negotiations."
Katie Dehlinger can be reached at Katie.Dehlinger@dtn.com
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