Japan to Resume Normal Beef Import Tariffs After Emergency Hike Ends

Japan is set to restore tariffs on frozen beef from the United States and other countries to usual levels from April 1, ending a hike put in place eight months earlier to protect domestic producers as an emergency, a government official said on Friday.

Between Aug. 1 and March 31, the duty was raised to 50 percent, from Japan’s standard 38.5 percent rate, as a surge in imports triggered a long-standing “safeguard” mechanism, threatening access to the biggest Asian market for U.S. beef farmers.

A parliamentary vote set for later on Friday is likely to renew the safeguard mechanism in the next fiscal year starting on Sunday, meaning tariff hikes can be automatically triggered in future should similar import surges occur.

But the official with Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said the 50 percent tariff is unlikely to return in the near future, as March import figures - due out in late April - are not expected to show a surge in imports.

The increase last August was the first time the tariff mechanism had been tripped for beef imports since August 2003. The move hit eateries serving hamburgers and popular “gyudon” beef bowls hard, since they rely on frozen imports.