Japanese and U.S. trade officials struck an interim deal effectively reopening the trade of cattle and beef products between the two nations. Trade between the two countries will resume following completion of regulatory processes in both countries.

Japan is revising domestic regulations to alter its BSE cattle testing requirements and other procedures. The United States will initiate rulemaking procedures relating to importation of Japanese specialty beef.

A special marketing program will be developed for Japan under which USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services will certify that exported products meet the terms of the agreement. The United States now will be permitted to sell beef and variety meats to Japanese importers from animals below 21 months of age.

Animal age will be determined by a combination of production records and physiological means (grading system). This marketing program will be evaluated by the countries in July 2005 and modified as appropriate. This evaluation will be based in part on an independent review of the marketing program and the BSE situation conducted by experts from the World Organization for Animal Health and other organizations.

Japan was the largest market for U.S. beef and products with sales in 2003 before the ban was imposed exceeding $1.7 billion. Exports in total account for well over 10 percent of the total value of U.S. beef output. U.S. sales to Japan were suspended following the discovery of the one case of BSE from an imported cow on Dec. 23, 2003 in Washington state.