STC Number - 213

Restrictions on beef imports

Maintained by: Japan
Raised by: United States of America
Supported by: European Union
First date raised: March 2005 G/SPS/R/36/Rev.1, paras. 30-31
Dates subsequently raised: June 2005 (G/SPS/R/37/Rev.1, paras. 53-55)
October 2005 (G/SPS/R/39, paras. 43-45)
March 2006 (G/SPS/R/40, paras. 46-47)
Number of times subsequently raised: 3
Relevant documents: G/SPS/R/36/Rev.1, paras. 10-14
Products covered: 0201 Meat of bovine animals, fresh or chilled.; 0202 Meat of bovine animals, frozen.
Primary subject keyword: Animal Health
Keywords: Animal health; Food safety; Human health; Zoonoses
Status: Not reported
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In March 2005, the United States emphasized its concerns regarding Japan's continuing restrictions on US beef based on the detection, in December 2003, of a single case of BSE in an imported cow. It recalled its ongoing cooperation with Japan, over the past 14 months, to resolve all scientific and health concerns about the safety of US beef. The October 2004 bilateral agreement required the United States to provide all the scientific information requested by Japan and to allow access for Japanese technical officials to US facilities. Effective firewalls had been in place for many years to prevent the establishment and spread of BSE within the United States. In response to the single case of BSE, the United States had implemented several additional regulatory measures to further strengthen existing safeguards, had completed a comprehensive epidemiological investigation and taken many other actions described in the report of the March meeting. Given that there had been no indigenous cases of BSE reported, there was sufficient scientific evidence for Japan to immediately remove restrictions on US beef and beef products.
Japan indicated that the US beef issue was one of the most important policy agenda items for the Japanese government. Japan recalled that the October 2004 bilateral framework agreement to resume the two-way trade in beef was subject to the respective domestic approval processes including deliberation by each Member's food safety commissions. The Japanese Food Safety Commission would undertake a risk assessment for imports of US beef as soon as it had completed its risk assessment of domestic BSE measures.
In June 2005, the United States emphasized over the past 17 months, the United States had provided Japan with extensive technical information on all aspects of its BSE-related protection measures, internationally recognized as effective and appropriate, for both food safety and animal health. The United States stressed that, according to the revised OIE standards, the recent detection of one BSE-infected animal blocked from the food and feed chain could not be used as an excuse to restrict imports of US beef products. The European Communities invited Japan to replace its import ban with specific requirements in accordance with OIE standards. Japan reported that the Food Safety Commission had completed the risk assessment on domestic beef on 6 May 2005 and was now carrying out the risk assessment on US beef.
In February 2006, the European Communities reported that Japan had recently reopened its market for beef exports from some EC member States, but in accordance with Articles 2.3 and 3.3 of the SPS Agreement, Japan should reopen its market to bovine products from all EC member States. The protective BSE measures, including the implementation and enforcement of the feed ban, the removal of specified risk materials and the elaboration of an identification, registration and traceability system for bovines and their products able to warrantee the age of each bovine, could fully satisfy the safety of consumers anywhere in the world. The United States noted that Japan had re-opened its market for some US beef products but maintained scientifically unjustified restrictions on other products, inconsistent with international standards.
Japan observed that numerous countries still suspended beef imports from BSE-infected countries and that international standards on BSE changed every year. On the basis of its risk analysis, Japan had decided to reduce its beef imports from a few BSE-affected countries.
In March 2006, the European Communities indicated that despite bilateral efforts following the consideration of this issue at the last SPS Committee meeting, progress on this issue had not been satisfactory. In the light of favourable developments of the disease situation in the European Communities and due to recent changes in the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code chapter on BSE, it was time for Members to implement international standards for BSE. The European Communities could satisfy Japan's requirements related to the feed ban and its enforcement; the removal of specific risk materials; and an effective system of identification and registration and traceability for bovines and their products. Japan had denied the EC request to perform BSE risk assessments for interested EC member States, in contravention of Articles 2.3 and 3.3 of the SPS Agreement. The European Communities invited Japan to review its ban on imports of EC beef on the basis of a risk assessment and noted that useful discussions had been held just prior to the meeting.
Japan indicated that Japan had decided in January 2006 to hold technical consultations between experts from Japan and from those EC member States interested in exporting beef to Japan.