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Cablegate: Demarche Delivered: U.S. Grain Exports to Japan

VZCZCXRO0110
RR RUEHFK RUEHKSO RUEHNAG RUEHNH
DE RUEHKO #2631 2680503
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 240503Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY TOKYO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7445
INFO RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC 8598
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 3406
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5470
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2778
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI 1083
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA 9999
RUEHNAG/AMCONSUL NAGOYA 8100
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA 2359
RUEHOK/AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE 3742
RUEHKSO/AMCONSUL SAPPORO 0575

UNCLAS TOKYO 002631

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/J
USDA FOR FAS OA, ONA, OCRA, OFSO/DBREHM AND DUS TERPSTRA
STATE PASS USTR FOR AUSTR CUTLER, BEEMAN, AND HOLLOWAY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON ETRD SENV JA
SUBJECT: DEMARCHE DELIVERED: U.S. GRAIN EXPORTS TO JAPAN

REFS: A) STATE 101209
B) TOKYO 2596

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY

1. (SBU) The GOJ has no intention of portraying U.S. grains as
unsafe and in fact cancelled recent rice and wheat tenders to shore
up public confidence, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and
Fisheries (MAFF) Director General of Staple Foods Masaaki Okuhara
told FAS Senior Attache in response to Ref A points delivered
September 22. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General for
Economic Affairs Otabe also told EMIN earlier that day that Japan's
consumers see the problem as linked to rice from China and Vietnam,
not rice from the United States.

2. (SBU) Okuhara said MAFF has been under intense media and public
pressure due to Japan's "tainted" rice scandal and stands accused of
downplaying lapses in MAFF oversight -- lapses that allowed moldy
and pesticide-tainted rice to be sold illegally to food processors
and enter the food supply (Ref B). Okuhara claimed an all-out media
circus would have erupted had MAFF gone forward with the tender for
U.S. rice (already four months behind schedule). Okuhara asserted
MAFF has regularly communicated details surrounding the "tainted"
rice scandal to the media and public, but that the media have
focused reporting on pesticide-related issues. (The primary
pesticide in question -- methamidophos -- is the same pesticide at
the center of the Chinese dumpling scandal that continues to capture
headlines in Japan.)

3. (SBU) Citing his July meeting in Geneva with Deputy Under
Secretary Ellen Terpstra, Okuhara reiterated Japan remains committed
to honoring its pledge to fulfill its Minimum Access requirements in
2008 for rice under the WTO. However, when pressed, Okuhara was
unwilling to say when the tenders would resume. He acknowledged
that wheat tenders would most likely recommence before rice
(presumably an indication of Japan's greater need for wheat
imports).

4. (SBU) Ministry of Foreign Affairs DG for Economic Affairs Yoichi
Otabe told EMIN separately September 22 that Japan's consumers see
the country's most recent food scandal as involving Vietnamese and
Chinese rice, not rice from the United States. (Note: The Japanese
media have not to our knowledge mentioned U.S. rice as a possible
culprit in the scandal. End note.) Otabe added that MOFA is
working with MAFF to ensure an acceptable resolution of the grain
tenders issue. The agriculture ministry, Otabe stated, confronts
multiple problems and does not need further difficulties with the
United States over rice. Otabe said he hoped MOFA DDG Hiramatsu
would be able to provide Washington agencies positive news on the
tender questions in his meetings there at the end of the week.

SCHIEFFER

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