Health Care

In cold blow to US, Japan ups tariffs on frozen beef imports

In cold blow to US, Japan ups tariffs on frozen beef imports”

Finance Minister Taro Aso said Friday the Japanese government will impose emergency tariffs on frozen beef from the United States and other regions, widely used in fast food, from August due to soaring shipments.

From 1 August 1 until 31 March 2018, tariffs will leap to 50% from the current 38.5% regime.

Relatively affordable "Aussie beef" is an increasingly popular feature of most supermarket meat sections, with Australia supplying more than half, about 55 percent, of all frozen beef imported to Japan.

The increase in tariffs is triggered automatically if quarterly imports of beef products go up by more than 17% on a previous year.

Farm minister Yuji Yamamoto also said he hopes to "explain to the USA carefully".

The tariff hike could become a source of contention with the United States at a time when the administration of President Donald Trump is calling on Tokyo to further open its agricultural market and take steps for "fair trade" with the United States, which continues to run trade deficits with Japan.

The tariff hike will be especially hard on gyudon beef bowl restaurants that rely heavily on US frozen beef cuts as a primary ingredient, he said.

Farm minister Yuji Yamamoto told reporters that the effect of the measures on consumers should be "limited" as frozen beef targeted by the measure accounts for 20% of the Japan's total beef imports.

"The tariff will take effect automatically as the volume of the imported United States frozen beef exceeded the quota set by law", Aso said, "So this is what has to be done".

According to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. supplies around 35 percent, though U.S. beef exports to Japan have risen recently as prices fell after the livestock sector recovered from years of drought.

Frozen beef imports from all countries were up by 17.1% between April - June in Japan, to 89,253 tonnes, but imports from nations which do not have economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with Japan soared by almost 25% to 37,823 tonnes, according to government data.

Japan's beef bowl restaurants suffered tremendous setbacks when US beef imports were previously curtailed, and were "finally enjoying robust growth due to greater availability of USA beef", USMEF's Seng said.

U.S. sales of frozen beef cuts to Japan a year ago were worth $418 million, making up around 18% of total U.S. frozen beef sales, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Overall U.S beef exports for the first five months of the year were 497,323 tonnes. Other countries which will be hit by the import tariff include New Zealand and Canada.

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