Japanese Market Fully Opened for U.S. Beef; Tariffs Remain Concern

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U.S. beef producers now have full access into the Japanese market after being restricted on entry for more than a decade and a half, but tariffs are still a limiting point compared to Japan’s other trade partners.

All age restrictions were lifted by Japan regarding U.S. beef on May 17, completely opening up the Japanese market for the first time since 2003. Previously, Japan had halted all imports of U.S. beef following the discovery of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in a U.S. cow about 16 years ago. Then in 2005 imports from cattle no more than 20 months of age resumed. The stipulation was then eased to cattle 30 months of age or younger in 2013.

Politicians and cattle groups like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) were applauding the move to completely allow U.S. beef.

“Putting American beef fully back on the menu in Japan will help our cattle ranchers grow their operations and continue to make a living off the land. This is a critical step in the right direction because we should be opening up foreign markets, not damaging longstanding trade alliances,” says U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT).

“U.S. beef has now secured a greater share of market access to the Japanese marketplace and we look forward to building on the $1.7 billion worth of U.S. beef that was sold to Japan in 2018,” says USCA President Kenny Graner.

Despite the win on gaining full entry to Japan for beef there are still tariffs to deal with. After the Trump Administration backed out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Mexico all gained an advantage over the U.S. on access into Japan. The 10 other countries in TPP currently have a 26.6% tariff on beef going to Japan compared to 38.5% for U.S. beef.

“Now, we must focus on the negotiation of a bilateral trade agreement with Japan to bring down the 38.5% tariff the country places on our product,” Graner says.

Senator Tester adds, “I will continue to hold this Administration accountable by defending family farmers and ranchers against harmful tariffs and keep pushing to sell Montana beef to the world.”

While the issue of tariffs is important, NCBA President Jennifer Houston is optimistic that there could be some light at the end of the tunnel for narrowing that trade gap.

“Tariff rates grab all the headlines, but non-tariff barriers are often just as important, if not more so, when it comes to determining market access. Hopefully this will help spotlight this important point and lead to more trade victories in the near future,” she adds.

Countries in TPP will likely continue to see access into Japan increase as the agreement is slated to lower tariffs on beef to 9% by 2033. 

For more on what Japan’s beef market potential could be and other beef related news watch the Drovers TV report from AgDay above or read the following stories: