Japan has continued to reject the call to take U.S. beef from animals older than 20 months of age. With some stability at the Ag Ministry in that country there might finally be a chance to get some movement on the issue. National Cattlemen's Beef Association Chief Economist Gregg Doud notes every time the U.S. has had discussions with a Japanese official on the subject and some promises are made to begin a process to look at the issue another Ag Minister is gone and so are the promises made to U.S. negotiators.
"That's what has really hamstrung us here for quite some time is that we've had a revolving door at the ag ministry, we haven't had anyone to talk to," Doud said. "Now we have a situation where for I think two and a half or three years we have no more elections in Japan. This guy should be in place for awhile and I know the Administration has already set down and tried to have conversations with him."
However, China is where Doud sees the first opportunity for selling more U.S. beef.
"Undersecretary Jim Miller and U.S. trade negotiator at USTR, those guys are really interested in setting down and talking with the Chinese," Doud said. "Hearing some indication that they may be willing themselves to move forward in this discussion so that's the one on the front burner right now."
Then there's South Korea. Doud says it's time to have the discussions to get the pending free trade agreement passed. He says we need to get it done sooner rather than later. Doud is concerned because the Koreans are also talking to the Australians.
"We've had this opportunity to get a leg up on the Australians in the one market where we go head to head more than any other place on the planet and now that the Australians are coming on strong I'm worried to death that they may take this thing out from under us," Doud said. "If they get the same deal we do, which is about 2.66% cut in the tariff each year until we cut it from 40% to zero over 15 years. If they get theirs started a year ahead of us, that means that they've got that 2% plus tariff advantage for the next 15 years. That just kills us, so that's the message that we're trying to send to the Administration; get this thing put together, get it done and get it up on Capitol Hill for a vote and I think the President badly wants to get that himself."