Chrétien pitches Canadian beef to Japanese PM
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
"Chrétien pitches Canadian beef to Japanese PM"
(by Maria Babbage, Canadian Press) Toronto Star
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien gave a phone call to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi a few days ago pleading for Japan to lift the suspension of import of beef from Canada, put into effect a little more than a month ago on May 21. The cause of the suspension was bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease, found in a cow from Alberta. The two PM's talked for about 15 minutes, and the article above reports how Mr Chrétien summarized the conversation.
As expected, Mr Koizumi has his own version of outline of the telephone conference. According to Japanese media, Mr Koizumi said he explained to Mr Chrétien that more time might be necessary before lifting the embargo, as the issue needs to be further scrutinized by experts. He also told Mr Chrétien that the matter should be discussed between the farm ministers first as the issue has a number of technical aspects that need to be ironed out before top political decision could be made.
Japan's beef imports from Canada accounts for about 4% of the total beef imports, at about twenty thousand ton annually. And Japan is the third largest customer for Canada after the US, which imports over one million livestock and close to four hundred thousand ton of beef from Canada, and Mexico which comes in second place. One reason for Mr Koizumi's calmness comes from the fact that there is virtually no discernable effect in Japan on supply or price of beef as a result of the ban on Canadian beef import.
Mr Chrétien's position is somewhat more complicated. Presently, the US has closed its borders for importation of Canadian beef, and the reluctance on the part of the US for reopening the border is not for the fear of BSE entirely. It is because the US itself is an exporter of beef to Japan, and as apparently there is no way to segregate Canadian beef once it is brought into the US and processed, Japan might shut down the import of beef from the US beef, on the grounds that Canadian beef might be contained in the beef said to be from the US.
It is now up to Japan, then, on whether the US would resume importing beef from Canada, and this has encouraged, of forced, Mr Chrétien to give a call to Mr Koizumi.
Mr Koizumi is right, of course. Japanese consumers want safe beef, and that is what the government is supposed to provide.
One additional note to the article above, where at the end it reports after the phone conversation Mr Chrétien was on his way to Prague to promote Vancouver to host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. As a result, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) voted by a narrow margin, 56-53 in favor of Vancouver over PyeongChang, South Korea. Mr Chrétien is indeed to be congratulated, but some critics express concern on logistics as the ski competitions are planned to take place at Whistler Resorts some 120 kilometers from Vancouver.