Pac Rim trade fragile

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Jun 20, 2007
by WLJ
20, 2005

The tenuous nature of U.S. beef trade with Pacific Rim export partners became even more so last week following the announcement that a cow tested last November for BSE could have been infected with the disease.
Officials in Taiwan, the most recent major export market to reopen to U.S. beef, said last week that they will immediately reinstate the ban on all U.S. beef if confirmatory tests in Great Britain show the suspect cow was infected with the disease.
Beef trade talks with South Korea were suspended, at least temporarily, with both countries citing the uncertainty about the health of the United States’ cattle herd. “We are waiting until we get the test results back from England, before resuming our talks with the Koreans,” a USDA trade source told WLJ last week.
Japanese officials last Tuesday indicated that they were moving ahead with the regulatory process that would change import rules to allow U.S. beef from cattle under 20 months of age without BSE testing back into Japan. The fact that Japan has confirmed 20 cases of the disease in its domestic herd, with no infections in animals under 20 months of age, was said to temper the amount of distrust in U.S. beef.
In Taiwan, Chen Lu-hung, director of Taiwan’s Department of Health (DOH) Bureau of Food Safety, formally announced last Monday that if the suspect cow is confirmed to have BSE Taiwan will suspend imports of U.S. beef immediately.
A group of opposition parliamentarians said they suspected politics had been involved in the issue and vowed to push for the ban.
Taiwanese Health Minister Hou Sheng-mao, said the government will not cave to increasing public pressure from Taiwanese consumer organizations to ban U.S. beef before results of a confirmatory test from England are known.
He said the decision to retain imports of some U.S. beef products was made on “professional considerations,” and he asked for time to allow the health authorities to carry out investigations into the latest U.S. BSE case.
USDA sources said that beef trade resumption talks with South Korea were at a standstill last week, while the final BSE test result is awaited. A negative BSE test will probably lead to South Korea deciding late this month whether to resume the import of U.S. beef.
Government representatives, consumer groups and beef producers will gather in late June to review the United States’ quarantine efforts, Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MOAF) said last week.
The ministry said no decision has been made concerning the resumption of the import, but rumors suggest the meeting will pave the way for American beef into the South Korean market.
South Korean government officials, consumer group representatives and animal and human health specialists toured the U.S. June 6-10 on a technical BSE mission. USDA sources said that a tentative agreement resuming U.S. beef imports had been discussed extensively, however, the Korean ministry refused to confirm the claim.
Instead, those officials said further meetings in Korea needed to be conducted to determine if the BSE surveillance and mitigation protocols in the U.S. were sufficient.
U.S. government and beef industry officials said they had the impression that BSE protocols were more than adequate to ensure South Koreans’ confidence in the health and safety of U.S. beef.
“I would say they (the Koreans) were more than satisfied with the practices in place,” said Mark Gustafson, president of Swift International, a branch of Swift & Company.
The reinstatement of trade with Japan was still moving forward last week, with the country’s Food Safety Commission (FSC) continuing to work on new regulations that would allow U.S. beef from cattle under 20 months of age, with specified risk materials removed, that were untested for BSE.
According to Mamoru Ishihara, Japan’s vice minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, the federal government in that country was originally moving ahead with new import rules under the assumption that new cases of BSE would probably be confirmed in the U.S.
“We wouldn’t be surprised if another case (of BSE) is confirmed,” he said.
The final proposal regarding resumption of beef trade with the U.S. was expected to be announced late last month, however, several delays within FSC has resulted in projections for a new regulation being pushed back till at least the end of June or the first half of July, sources said. — Steven D. Vetter, WLJ Editor

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