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Cablegate: U.S. Beef: Agriculture Minister Voices Concerns Over

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DE RUEHKO #2410/01 2930355
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 200355Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY TOKYO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6913
INFO RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 8120
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 6570
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1465
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RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA 6974
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA 9329
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 6862
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 0631
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 7500
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE 7419
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/TREASURY DEPT WASHDC
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 7501
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TOKYO 002410

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE PASS USTR FOR AUSTR CUTLER AND DAUSTR BEEMAN
USDA FOR [FAS GSM JOHN BREWER, SUZANNE HALE, AND DAN BERMAN]

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD EAGR PGOV JA
SUBJECT: U.S. BEEF: AGRICULTURE MINISTER VOICES CONCERNS OVER
CO-MINGLED U.S. BEEF WITH AMBASSADOR

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION

1. (SBU) Summary: Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries
(MAFF) Hirotaka Akamatsu told the Ambassador October 14 that
Japanese consumers will refrain from purchasing U.S. beef and beef
products so long as food safety concerns remain. He cited the
recent incident involving a U.S. meat packing plant that is in
violation of Japan's import agreement as "regrettable." Akamatsu
declined to say whether Japan was prepared to adopt import
regulations for beef that are both science-based and in accordance
with international guidelines. Cordial throughout the meeting,
Akamatsu repeatedly stated he wants to work closely with the USG on
agriculture-related issues. He expressed optimism the Doha
Development Agenda (DDA) will be concluded and said he hopes
Secretary Vilsack will accept his invitation to attend next year's
APEC Agriculture Ministerial meeting in Niigata. End summary.

2. (SBU) During an initial meeting with Agriculture Minister
Akamatsu October 14, the Ambassador noted the importance of MAFF in
supporting our important bilateral economic and trade relationship,
and expressed optimism that any policy differences could be resolved
by working together. Akamatsu noted close trade ties between our
two countries are one of the reasons why he paid his first overseas
visit as Minister to the U.S. He said he used the opportunity to
speak with USTR Kirk and Secretary Vilsack about the need to work
closely together to conclude a successful WTO Doha Development
Agenda (see para 6).

Beef: A "Regrettable Incident"
-------------------------------

3. (SBU) Unfortunately, Akamatsu said, he had to learn during his
visit to the U.S. about the "regrettable incident" involving a U.S.
meat packing plant and the violation of the terms of the U.S.-Japan
beef Export Verification (EV) program. Minister Akamatsu noted this
was the third such violation of the EV program by the same U.S.
plant (this is in fact the plant's second violation) and that the
GOJ has identified a total of 13 violations since Japan (partially)
reopened its market to U.S. beef and beef products in 2006. He said
his ministry is obligated to respond to concerns expressed in the
media and the general public about why these violations keep
occurring. Although he claimed to understand the U.S. desire for
Japan to adopt beef important regulations that are consistent with
World Animal Health Organization (OIE) recommendations, Akamatsu
said a move in this direction continues to be difficult due to the
frequency of import violations and resulting food safety concerns by
Japanese consumers.

4. (SBU) The Ambassador noted the frequency of violations are less
about actual safety issues and more about the GOJ's unnecessarily
complicated import regulations that are out of synch with those
maintained by other key trading partners. If Japan were to adopt
OIE guidelines for trade in beef and beef products, violations such
as these would not occur. The Ambassador emphasized the U.S. is
committed to exporting safe and reliable beef product in accordance
with international standards and science. He expressed the USG's
desire to work with Japan in adopting import regulations that align
with these widely recognized standards. Minister Akamatsu declined
to comment when asked if Japan intends to move towards OIE
consistent regulations with respect to trade in beef and beef
products.

5. (SBU) Akamatsu likened the Japanese consumer's view of U.S. beef
to that of Chinese dumplings, which raised alarms in 2008 following
a scandal involving pesticide-laced product; as many as 180 people
fell ill after consuming the tainted dumplings. Chinese-origin
foods since then have been viewed with suspicion. For this reason,
the U.S. should strive to prevent another beef export packing
violation; otherwise, it will be difficult to establish widespread
public acceptance of U.S. beef in Japan, Akamatsu asserted. He

TOKYO 00002410 002 OF 002


attributed the sharp drop in Japanese consumption of U.S. beef
compared to pre-BSE levels to safety concerns among Japanese
consumers (as opposed to the GOJ's highly restrictive access
agreement). Japanese consumers want food that is both safe and
delicious, but they will refrain from buying U.S. beef until they
are reassured that it is reliable. Minister Akamatsu said the GOJ
wants to work with the USG to resolve the beef issue and expressed
appreciation for the Ambassador's offer to share information about
the safety of U.S. beef. (Note: Japan completely banned all
imports of U.S. beef and beef products in 2003 following a single
case of BSE in Washington State and subsequently agreed to a partial
and much more restrictive reopening of its market in 2006. End
note.)

The Doha Development Agenda and APEC
------------------------------------

6. (SBU) The Ambassador said close collaboration is imperative for
a successful conclusion of the WTO Doha Development Agenda (DDA).
Akamatsu concurred, stating the DDA is being pre-negotiated at the
working level and that he expects the round will be completed. On
the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, he said he had
invited Secretary Vilsack to attend the APEC Agricultural
Ministerial in October 2010 in Niigata. The Ambassador commented
that Japan and the U.S. have a real opportunity to strengthen the
organization's role in liberalizing trade as consecutive APEC Chairs
in 2010 and 2011.

Biotechnology
-------------

7. (SBU) The Ambassador noted the critical role agricultural
biotechnology plays in food production. Minister Akamatsu replied
that there are different opinions about the safety of
biotech-derived food products, but that Japan and the U.S. should
work closely together on research and regulation.

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