Japan urged to ease restrictions on U.S. beef

April 18 (UPI) — U.S. business leaders called for the lowering of tariffs in Japan as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence began trade talks with Japanese officials in Tokyo.

Philip M. Seng, the chief executive of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, told reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday that Japan’s tariffs on U.S. beef are “too high,” according to NHK.

Seng said the United States and Japan should soon negotiate a bilateral free trade agreement so beef import tariffs are lowered.

The spokesman for the U.S. beef industry pointed out Japan’s 38.5 percent tariff on beef is one of the world’s highest in major markets.

Japan has a history of restricting U.S. beef imports.

In 2003, the country banned U.S. beef, citing the spread of mad cow disease among livestock. Import restrictions were eased after December 2005 but a ban returned in January 2006.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who has been critical of trade barriers against U.S. exports, has said American beef was “good enough for foreigners to eat” despite the mad cow disease concerns.

Ross, who has not singled out Japan for criticism, has spoken out against barriers to U.S. exports of cars and agricultural products, Bloomberg reported.

A Japanese official has said Tokyo wants to exclude Ross from economic talks this week in order to avoid disputes.

Pence instead will take the lead in trade talks with Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso upon the request of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, according to the report.

The vice president arrived in Tokyo after concluding talks in Seoul, where he focused mostly on North Korea‘s threats.

But prior to his departure Pence pointed out the bilateral FTA with South Korea would need to be “reformed” in the days ahead.

Cho Jun-hyuk, Seoul’s foreign ministry spokesman, said Tuesday Pence’s remarks do not mean a renegotiation of the agreement,

The government, however, will pay closer attention to trends in the U.S. trade deficit, Cho said.

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