U.S. Statement at WTO on Japan's Beef Import Ban

Statement of the United States of America before the WTO SPS Committee
Regarding Japanfs Ban on U.S. Beef

March 9, 2005

Mr. Chairman:

  • The United States takes this opportunity to express our extraordinary concerns regarding Japanfs continuing restrictions on U.S. beef. Japan banned U.S. beef and beef products after a single case of BSE in an 8 year old imported cow was detected in December 2003.
  • Over the past 14 months, the United States has cooperated with Japan to answer all technical issues with regard to food safety and animal health, and to resolve all scientific concerns about the safety of U.S. beef.
  • The United States firmly believes that there is clear and sufficient scientific evidence for Japan to remove restrictions on U.S. beef and beef products - and to do so immediately.
  • Japanfs continuing restriction on U.S. beef and beef products raise serious concerns under the WTO agreements.
  • We recognize that WTO members have the right to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of the food supply and protect against unmitigated risks to animal and plant health.
  • The United States has had effective firewalls in place for many years to prevent BSE from becoming established and spreading. These include a ban on imports of live ruminants from countries having high rates of BSE, and a feed ban that prohibits the use of most mammalian protein in animal feed intended for cattle and other ruminants.
  • These protections are to ensure the safety of food supply and health of cattle.
  • In response to the single case of BSE in an imported cow detected in December 2003, the United States implemented several additional regulatory measures to further strengthen existing safeguards. These include:

    • Prohibiting specified risk materials (SRMs) from the food supply for animals over 30 months of age,
    • Banning the use on non-ambulatory animals from the food supply,
    • Expanding process controls for Advanced Meat Recovery systems and prohibiting mechanically separated beef from the food supply.

  • These new safeguards were notified under the provisions of the SPS Agreement.
  • Further, the United States completed a comprehensive epidemiological investigation after the report of one BSE case find in December 2003. All at-risk animals identified were tested and found to be negative.
  • The United States Secretary of Agriculture appointed an international panel of experts to review and evaluate the effectiveness of the U.S. response to the BSE case. The review team confirmed that the aggressive, science-based measures that we have taken were appropriate and suggested areas for further strengthening in our BSE safeguards. We considered all of the recommendations carefully and implemented the majority of them as appropriate.
  • The United States initiated an enhanced surveillance program to determine the risk of BSE; as of March 6, 2005, over 263,000 animals have been tested and all results are negative. This is a strong indication that the risk of BSE in the United States is extremely low, if it exists at all.
  • There have been no indigenous BSE cases in the United States; only a single case in an imported cow.
  • Japan is a vital market for U.S. beef valued at over $1.7 billion annually. We have worked on a variety of levels with an array of Japanese officials, from the technical to the political levels, in an effort to remove Japanfs restrictions.
  • On October 23, 2004, Japan and the United States developed and agreed to a framework to allow the resumption of U.S. beef exports to Japan.
  • Over the last 14 months, we have provided all the scientific information Japan has requested and we have provided access to Japanese technical officials to U.S. facilities.
  • However, despite all of these efforts and the clear and compelling scientific evidence documenting the safety of U.S. beef, Japan continues to maintain its ban on U.S. beef and beef products.
  • Today, the United States calls on Japan to remove the unjustified restrictions on U.S. beef and beef products and to meet its WTO SPS obligations.
  • This is a very serious and urgent matter for the United States and we strongly encourage Japan to act immediately to remove these restrictions.