As has been the case with every announcement coming out of Japan since December 2003, the most prudent strategy is to not get too excited until product actually starts moving. At least, however, an agreement has been inked and, as soon as Japan conducts its inspections of U.S. packing plants to verify USDA's process and assessments, the path to reopening trade seemingly will be opened.
The overall industry viewpoint is described very well in the National Cattlemens Beef Association's (NCBA) latest press release regarding the announcement. While praising USDA for its focus on U.S.-Japan trade discussions, NCBA also cited the years of empty Japanese promises and continued delays, as well as its skepticism of Japan as a dependable trading partner.
The Korean tactic of one step forward, two steps back is fresh in everyone's mind. Plus, there's a general recognition that science-based standards are essential for the long-term sustainability of the global beef trade, and we're a long way from being scientific based on our most recent agreements. Bone-in U.S. product won't be allowed for export to Japan, and the U.S. agreed to the 20-month age limit on cattle rather than the scientifically valid and justifiable 30 months.
In its press release, NCBA stressed how the U.S. meets or exceeds all World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) guidelines to freely export beef and beef products from cattle aged 30 months and less.
NCBA also continues to support legislation it pushed for calling for U.S. tariffs on Japanese exports to the U.S. if Japan doesn't open its borders to U.S. beef. U.S. cattlemen have paid tremendously for the indecision and obstinacy of our trading partners, and our trading partners must come to understand there are consequences for non-tariff trade barriers.
-- Troy Marshall