Japanese traders not troubled by frozen beef import safeguard

TOKYO, July 28 — Japanese trading companies have said the impact of the frozen beef import safeguard would be limited, partly because they built up U.S. frozen beef inventories.

They had anticipated the triggering of the safeguard due to strong beef imports in recent months.

The data by the finance ministry shows that Japan’s frozen beef imports rose 15% in January-May this year from the same period a year ago, with an 18 % surge in U.S. imports, while Australian imports showed a 9 percent increase.

From Aug. 01, Japan was to raise the tariff to 50 percent from its bound tariff of 38.5 percent, which Tokyo is tied to by the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement. It will remain in effect through the fiscal year that ends March 31, 2018.

The 50 percent tariff rates apply only to exporters from countries that do not have a free trade agreement (FTA) with Tokyo. That means it would mainly affect the U.S., which make up 35 percent of Japan’s imports of frozen beef.

By contrast, the tariff rates on Australian frozen beef imports remains at 27.2 percent, as established in the FTA with Japan. Australia accounts for 53 percent of frozen beef imports in Japan.

Some Japanese traders argue that the measure would not significantly lower U.S. frozen beef imports during the year, with one trader saying, “It will be difficult for suppliers to shift from U.S. beef to Aussie beef because it would only lead to an increase in the price of Aussie beef.”

Japan is the world’s No. 3 beef importer, with imports making up more than 60 percent of the market.

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