Johanns holds first meeting with Japan

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Feb 7, 2005
by WLJ
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns met with Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato in Washington, DC, last week to stress the importance of the Japanese reopening their border to U.S. beef. Johanns says he realizes the importance of the beef issue and was looking to gauge Japan’s willingness to open the border.
After the meeting, Johanns made a few comments to the news media about the discussion. First Johanns said he thanked the ambassador for their past working relationship when Johanns was the governor of a Midwestern state that thrived from major Japanese investments. On that note, Johanns proceeded to emphasize to the Ambassador the importance of the Japanese market to the proliferation of U.S. producers.
“I told him that there was one issue that we just needed to immediately address and get behind us,” said Johanns. “And, that was the beef trade issue.”
The Secretary proceeded to say that he very specifically requested of the ambassador that a certain date be set for the resumption of beef trade. “I indicated to him that I would do everything I could from my standpoint to accomplish the goal of beef trading in Japan,” said Johanns. “I went so far as to say if that necessitated a team here working 24/7, I would make sure that happened and that was in place.”
When asked what the ambassador’s retort was to that comment, Johanns said the ambassador’s response was along the lines of “we understand the importance of this issue, we’re going to do everything we can.”
Johanns also noted that, “Needless to say, he did not come prepared to say the date will be February 1 or February 15. But, I certainly felt the willingness to work with us and to get this behind us. We both expressed that.”
When pressed by reporters to get a feeling of a date for the resumption of beef trade between the U.S. and Japan, Johanns said he wishes he could say that today was the day, but that is not the case. Johanns said all he could do was express his “strong, strong desire to agree upon a date—a date that the two countries can work off of.”
Johanns also said he recounted his confirmation hearing to Kato saying, “it did not matter which side was asking the questions, it was absolutely unified and unanimous, and question after question after question was, ‘Governor Johanns, what are you going to do to resume trade with Japan?’ And I said to him, that underscores the enormous, the importance of this issue.”
Additionally, Johanns said he told the Japanese representative that it turned out to be more of an airing of frustration about the need to move this issue forward, rather than a confirmation hearing.
Asked if the border situation with Canada was addressed, Johanns said that Canada did not come up in their discussions.
Overall, Johanns felt the meeting was positive. He said that if anything could have been achieved from the encounter, it was that a step in the direction was taken in developing a candid working relationship between the ambassador and himself.
“I am confident that he will express my desires immediately to his government,” said Johanns. “I am confident that will occur today.”