Japan has announced that it will resume imports of U.S. beef from cattle 20 months of age and younger, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“This has been a long process as we’ve confirmed that our system is in full compliance with Japan’s import requirements and provided Japan with clear, scientific data confirming that American beef is extremely safe,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. “It is gratifying to know that these efforts paid-off, as did the patience demonstrated by Congress.

“It is unfortunate that the trade resumption launched last December was cut short in January of this year. Nations need reasonable methods of addressing the inadvertent shipment of products that don’t meet an importing country’s specifications, without disrupting an entire trading relationship. The U.S. has such methods of addressing noncompliant shipments from Japan, as well as our other trading partners, and I am hopeful that going forward Japan will take a similar approach.

“As we look forward, we must also continue to strive to move beef trade with Japan and throughout the world toward science-based international guidelines. Science provides us with clear data upon which to build trading standards. All of us must be mindful of these guidelines and work toward complying with them.

“In 2003, the United States exported $1.4 billion worth of beef and beef products to Japan. I look forward to the day when we resume that level of trade. To that end, I have asked the Japanese Government to meet with us this fall to discuss the next steps toward strengthening our beef trading relationship and graduating to standards based in science.”