Saturday, February 26, 2005

Where's the Beef? U.S. pressures Japan to lift beef ban

Japan is working towards lifting its ban on U.S beef imports to prevent relatiation from Washington. Japan stopped buying U.S beef over health concerns in December 2003 after a case of mad cow disease was found in Washington state. (Pravda)

No problem here, unless the U.S. can guarantee that the disease is well under containment and will not crop up again.

Japan's concern comes after 20 U.S senators recently threatened sanctions unless Japan buys U.S beef again. The senators from farm states have written to Japan's ambassador in the United States, urging his country to follow up on its promise to lift an import ban on American beef. (Pravda)

This is a health ban and Japan has every right to impose this measure. Japan has been an ally of the U.S. in many important foreign policy issues. Because of this the U.S. should not back Japan into a corner and think it can beat Japan with a stick if the government doesn't comply with U.S. demands.

The letter, sent Wednesday, also raised the possibility of a trade battle if Japan does not live up to its October agreement to end the ban.

"If the Japanese government fails to lift the ban expeditiously, we are afraid that the U.S. Congress may pursue equitable, retaliatory economic actions against Japan," stated the letter to Ambassador Ryozo Rato.

This is the act of a recalcitrant bully who has formidable military power. Come on! Japan has been loyal to the U.S. even under extreme pressure from the international community, especially regarding the invasion of Iraq. If one will recall, when Japanese citizens were held hostage, the Japanese government did not give in to the terrorists and kept their troops in Iraq, unlike the Philippines.

Japan is also under pressure from Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who raised the issue Saturday at meetings in Washington with Japanese counterpart Nobutaka Machimura. State Department officials have said Japan understands U.S. concerns and has made a commitment to resolve the issue.

Just the name, Condi Rice, elicits a foreshadow of unfortunate things to come if Japan does not comply with U.S. pressure to lift the ban. Enough said.

Tokyo has agreed in principle to restart the multi-billion dollar trade, but is continuing technical discussions on how to test the animals for the potentially deadly disease. (ABC News)

Japan should stand on principle and not be browbeaten by the U.S. The Japanese government should ensure that its citizens are safe from any imported products that could cause a potentially deadly health hazard to its citizenry. Any government, no matter its ideology, is responsible for the safety and welfare of its people.

Before the ban, Japan was the most lucrative overseas market for U.S. beef producers, buying $1.7 billion in beef in 2003. (Seattle Post)

So, that would explain it. The U.S. coffers are stretched tightly, its astronomical budget the highest its ever been. Japan's importation of beef will alleviate some of the financial burden.


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