WTO safeguard mechanism draws fire from US meat exporters

TOKYO, July 29 — U.S. meat exporters have said Japan’s safeguard on frozen beef imports from the U.S. and other countries is not governed by free trade agreements (FTAs) with Tokyo, and called for action to change the situation that dragged Washington into the trade remedy under the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The U.S. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Craig Uden said July 28 in a statement, “NCBA opposes artificial barriers like these because they unfairly distort the market and punish both producers and consumers.

“We hope the Trump Administration and Congress realize that this unfortunate development underscores the urgent need for a bilateral trade agreement with Japan absent the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Uden said.

The U.S. Meat Federation (USMEF) President and CEO Philip Seng has also drewn a fire.

“USMEF recognizes that the safeguard will not only have negative implications for U.S. beef producers, but will also have a significant impact on the Japanese foodservice industry,” Seng said July 27 in a statement.

Referring to gyudon chains such as Yoshinoya, Sukiya and Matsuya that are everywhere on any street in Tokyo or any Japanese city, “It will be especially difficult for the gyudon beef bowl restaurants that rely heavily on Choice U.S. short plate as a primary ingredient,” Seng continued.

“We will also continue to pursue all opportunities to address the safeguard situation by encouraging the U.S. and Japanese governments to reach a mutually beneficial resolution to this issue,” he said.

The USMEF also argues that “the growth in Japan’s imports this year has not adversely impacted Japan’s domestic beef producers.”

Specifically, the U.S. export group pointed out that certain Japanese beef, except wagyu carcasses and wagyu feeder cattle, marks the highest prices in recent history, despite the surge in beef imports in recent months.

Tokyo has also moved away from the safeguard mechanism on a quarterly basis established in the WTO, to safeguards on an annual basis in its recent FTAs like one with Canberra, “which are much less likely to be triggered,” said the USMEF.

The Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, known as Zenchu, pushed back against the U.S. backlash on the WTO rules.

Zenchu Chairman Choe Okuno at a press conference on July 28, reminding a huge gap in output costs between the two countries, stressed: “In order to preserve our livestock farming, it is indispensable to keep the WTO safeguard mechanism.”

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