Japan to Eventually Allow U.S. Beef
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
Japan to Eventually Allow U.S. Beef
(Sam Cage, AP) Businessweek
The article reports that Japan's agriculture minister Shoichi Nakagawa said, "Once the problem (that stopped the U.S. beef export to Japan) is resolved, probably we are going to resume the trade."
This is indeed a very clear statement with apparently no room for speculation. But the headline of the article might impose a problem by giving false hope to U.S. beef exporters that could "eventually" turn out to become (again) a political standoff between Japan and the U.S. Nakagawa never said that Japan "will (eventually) allow (U.S. beef)...," he merely said "probably" and that after "the problem is resolved."
What happened when a U.S. meat packer shipped parts of beef agreed to be removed beforehand seems to have become fairly clear thanks to the U.S. officials realizing the magnitude of the incident. There was (at least) one packer that was not aware of the rules agreed upon by the two governments for the U.S. beef to be shipped to Japan, despite the packer had wished, and knew they were shipping the beef to Japan. The U.S. inspector assigned at the packer, supposed to be supervising the operation so that the export regulations of the U.S. government - in this case applicable for shipments to Japan - was not aware such agreement even existed.
The U.S. has initially claimed that this was an unfortunate and isolated accident. A U.S. lawmaker was cited as saying, "The incident is like a single fault on the brake lining of a car among hundreds of thousands shipped." Well, the Japanese consumers did not buy that argument. Their perception was more like a bullet fired in a busy street where gun was prohibited, and where the police had claimed the area to be safe.
Also, the U.S. has repeatedly claimed that their beef is safe. This claim was so clearly off the point - the issue was not safety per se, it was whether the U.S. would live up to what it had promised to do. This further raised doubts among Japanese people against the U.S. for its insincere and fraudulent behaviors.
Such being the circumstances, it is difficult, to say the least, to remedy the situation. In fact, no one has come with any valid method to recover the lost confidence among the Japanese people against U.S. beef - or more precisely, those who handle beef in the U.S. In Japan, the government is being accused by political opponents as well as major consumer groups that it was too hasty in lifting the import ban, saying that the government gave in to the pressures applied by the U.S. government. Retailers who a month ago cheered to see U.S. beef again and purchased the beef to stock up preparing for a planned and advertised U.S. beef fair type of event swiftly cancelled the plans, and now they are stuck with the U.S. beef they purchased, unable to sell being afraid of consumers' denouncing reactions. It seems they simply must dump it unless someone outside Japan would be willing to take it.
In fact, the talk of U.S. beef is seldom heard in Japan after a week of the re-ban. It seems the people have pretty much given up having U.S. beef any more. And as for those who miss a good beef-bowl, they can only pray that the U.S. would put their acts together this time and patiently wait for the Japanese consumers' confidence to return - as any hasty action would only further deteriorate the status. Many in Japan indeed beef import could resume, again, before they completely forget what good beef-bowls tasted like.