The US and Japanese agriculture chiefs agreed Thursday to resume talks on the contentious issue of Japanese restrictions on American beef imports first imposed over mad cow disease in 2003.
Both sides maintained their different positions after a meeting between US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and his Japanese counterpart Hirotaka Akamatsu, but they agreed to resume talks for the first time since 2007.
Tokyo and Washington will “continue the dialogue through a series of senior and working level meetings in order to establish a mutually agreeable framework for the import conditions for US beef and beef products,” Vilsack said.
Akamatsu told reporters after the meeting that “we have maintained our basic stance on food security and safety from a scientific viewpoint.”
But he added that he had “absolutely no objections to holding talks at the political and bureaucrat level since the Japan-US relationship is very important.”
Japan, which used to be the largest buyer of US beef, stopped the imports after the brain-wasting disease was detected in an American herd in late 2003, and has only resumed limited imports since then.
Pressure has grown in the United States for Japan to ease the restrictions, which some farm-state lawmakers have labelled “scientifically unfounded.”