From: Kyodo News International, Tokyo
Published October 16, 2004 12:00 AM

Japan, U.S. to Hold High-Level Beef Talks in Tokyo

Oct. 16—TOKYO — Japan and the United States will hold high-level talks aimed at lifting Japan's ban on U.S. beef imports next week in Tokyo, Japanese government sources said Friday.

During the talks, Japan will explain to the United States its proposed review of its policy of testing all cattle for mad cow disease, which would pave the way for resumption of U.S. beef imports possibly next spring, the sources said.

Whether to ease conditions for mad cow testing in Japan has been a focal point of bilateral negotiations as Tokyo insists that U.S.

beef cattle be tested for the disease, known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, in the same way as is done in Japan.

Washington had rejected Japan's demand that it introduce blanket testing, claiming it is unscientific.

The United States is expected to renew its calls for Japan to relax mad cow testing rules in Japan at an early stage during the upcoming talks, the sources said.

Earlier in the day, the farm and health ministries unveiled a package of measures on mad cow disease that calls for exempting cows aged 20 months and younger from testing for the disease.

The package was presented to the Food Safety Commission in the Cabinet Office. The panel is expected to spend about two months for deliberations before endorsing the package, and the requirement that all slaughtered cattle be tested for BSE is expected to end in Japan next spring.

The high-level beef talks between the two countries will be held for the first time since April last year. Japan imposed the ban on U.S. beef imports after the first case of mad cow disease was found in the country last December.

U.S. Undersecretary of Agriculture J.B. Penn will represent the U.S. delegation while senior officials of Japan's foreign, health and farm ministries will participate in the talks, the sources said.

© 2004, Kyodo News International, Tokyo. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

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