Japan to impose safeguards on beef imports from August

TOKYO, July 27 — Japan is to impose a special safeguard (SSG) measure on beef imports from Aug. 01 for the first time in 14 years due to a surge in imports of frozen beef in recent months.

The exception will be beef imports from countries that have a free trade agreement (FTA) with Tokyo.

That means the import restriction will be applied to the United States, New Zealand and Canada, whereas Australia, Mexico and Chili maintain better terms through FTAs with Japan.

Japan will raise the tariff to 50 percent from its bound tariff of 38.5 percent, which Tokyo is bound to by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The SSG measure will remain in effect through the fiscal year that ends March 31, 2018.

Under the SGG provision, the WTO allows Japan and some members to restrict some farm imports temporarily by imposing higher tariffs or other measures when imports rise more than 17% in a quarter from the previous year.

Trade data from the finance ministry, due on July 28, was expected to confirm beef imports in April-June would exceed the level of the safeguard trigger.

Industry sources said some Japanese importing companies rushed to buy US beef during the period, partly because US frozen meat was more than 10% cheaper in the same month from a year ago.

They also attributed the increase to the recent reopening of the Chinese market to US beef after a 14-year ban, saying that “Some procured more than they normally buy because they fear lose out to China in buying US beef.”

Tokyo has sent officials to Washington to explain the SSG situation. But the SSG measure may be taken up in the agenda of the U.S.-Japan Economic Dialogue, which will take place in October in Washington.

After abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Washington has pressed Tokyo hard to enter a bilateral free trade negotiation to buy more American grains and agricultural products.

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