U.S. Urges Japan To Remove Beef Ban

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) -- U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk on Monday urged Japan to address its partial ban on U.S. beef imports and to ensure equal competition conditions for U.S. insurers in the country, saying they are "two issues that remain of serious concern."

Kirk made the comments in a statement issued as the United States and Japan compiled their eighth report under the bilateral Regulatory Reform and Competition Policy Initiative, making clear that President Barack Obama will seek the total lifting of Japan's ban on U.S. beef imports just as his predecessor George W. Bush did.

Kirk welcomed progress made through the initiative in some areas that would help improve Japan's business environment and encourage new opportunities for growth.

But he noted, "Normalizing trade for U.S. beef and securing a level playing field for U.S. insurance providers are two issues that remain of serious concern. I look to Japan to ensure these concerns are addressed as quickly as possible."

Japan resumed imports of U.S. beef in July 2006 on condition that the meat is obtained from cattle aged 20 months or younger and that specified risk material is removed, due to fears of mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

But the United States has called for a complete removal of the import restrictions.

As for the insurance issue, Washington is seeking "a level playing field" in Japan between Japan Post Insurance Co., a unit of the government-owned Japan Post Group, and private-sector insurers.