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Japan and U.S. had agreed to skip on-site inspections at U.S. meatpackers

In the House of Councilors Agricultural Committee meeting held on February 3 to exclusively discuss U.S. beef imports, Japanese Communist Party representative Kami Tomoko revealed that the government had agreed with the United States to accept the assessment of samples and records without conducting on-the-spot-inspections, while demanding on-the-spot inspections on Canadian beef.

The JCP representative asked why Japan acted differently with the two beef exporting countries in extreme favor to the United States, and criticized the government for giving priority to meeting the U.S. call for resuming imports over ensuring public safety.

Holding Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Nakagawa Shoichi responsible for the failure to implement the cabinet decision to inspect before resuming imports, Kami demanded that he be dismissed as cabinet minister.

Nakagawa insisted that there was nothing wrong in the system of resuming imports but that problems were involved in operating the system.

Japan banned U.S. beef in December 2003 following the confirmation of BSE-infected cattle in the United States, and in December 2005 lifted the ban and resumed imports. On January 20, U.S. beef containing high BSE-risk spine was found at Narita Airport, and Japan again suspended all U.S. beef imports.

The controversial document was the Japan-U.S. agreement concluded on December 12, 2005 to prepare for resuming imports by defining the scope of inspections by Japan. There is no requirement for on-the-spot inspections in individual facilities. In contrast, the agreement with Canada includes requirement for Japan to implement on-the-spot inspections in designated facilities.
- Akahata, February 4, 2006

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