Japan Should Increase Market Access, Commerce Secretary Says

By Todd Bullock
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - Japan should open its markets to U.S. beef and expand market access for other U.S. goods and services, says Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez.

"We know that open markets spread freedom and create prosperity for U.S. companies and our trading partners," Gutierrez told the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan on March 31.

Also on March 31, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in Washington released its 2006 report of unfair trade barriers in foreign countries, the National Trade Estimate on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE), which lists unfair trade and investment barriers in 63 countries and regions, including Japan.  (See related article.)

A few long-standing issues, such as Japan removing its "unjustified restrictions" on the import of U.S. apples, were resolved in 2005, according to the report.  The NTE also recapped continued U.S. efforts to press Japan to reopen its market to U.S. beef, urging the nation to bring its safeguard measures in line with World Animal Health Organization guidelines by allowing imports of all ruminant and ruminant products deemed safe. Ruminants, hoofed mammals that digest their food in two steps, include cows, goats and sheep.

In January, Japan reinstated a ban on U.S. beef when a U.S. shipment to that country contained materials prohibited by an October 2004 export agreement between the two countries. (See related article.)

Japan originally imposed the ban in December 2003 after a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease) was discovered in a U.S. herd in a single cow imported from Canada. (See related article.)

The United States believes its beef is safe and wants the opportunity to demonstrate it can deliver "the best beef in the world at the right specifications," Gutierrez said in Tokyo.


The commerce secretary also urged Japan to ease its strict regulations on approving and pricing pharmaceuticals.

"We believe that Japan can have access to more innovation ... if you break through the system today that exists in pricing products and some of the regulatory speed that is lacking," he said.

"In some instances, we have heard of some pharmaceuticals that are three or four generations behind," the secretary said.  "Japan deserves better."


During a March 31 meeting with Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Toshihiro Nikai on the same day, Gutierrez also pressed for greater cooperation on intellectual property rights protection.

Enhanced bilateral cooperation will involve exchanging information, sharing resources and working together to build greater relationships between government and private industry, according to Gutierrez.

"IPR violations are theft [that] is unacceptable. It contributes to organized crime, and puts the health and safety of our citizens at risk," he said in a Commerce Department press release on the meeting.

The commerce secretary added that the United States and Japan must work together to put a stop to IPR theft and enhance enforcement efforts against violators.

The commerce secretary’s trip to East Asia also included a stop in China. (See related article.)

A transcript of Gutierrez's speech is available on the Web site for the U.S. Embassy Tokyo. A press release on Gutierrez's meeting with Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry is available on the Department of Commerce's Web site. 

The Japan section (PDF, 42 pages) of the NTE report is available on USTR's Web site.

For additional information, see East Asia and the Pacific and Trade and Economics.