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Japan | Brussels, 6 February 2013

EU welcomes the re-opening of the Japanese market for EU beef after 12 years

Statement by EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner Tonio Borg, and Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Dacian CioloĊŸ on the re-opening of the Japanese market for imports of EU beef and beef products since 1 February 2013 and on today’s endorsement by Member States to allow beef imports from Japan to the EU.

"We welcome the lifting of the Japanese ban on imports of beef and beef products from France and the Netherlands, since 1 February 2013. This is a positive first step, although it took longer than had been desirable. The Japanese decision sends an encouraging signal to other Member States seeking to apply to export beef to Japan, and whose equally high level of food safety has already been internationally recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The EU is looking forward to seeing this reflected when this welcome opening by Japan will be widened to also include other EU Member States.

This market opening also sends an important signal to the EU's trading partners in the Far East and throughout the world that EU beef is safe, and that imports of EU beef should resume quickly.

As the EU and Japan are preparing for negotiations of a Free Trade Agreement, this decision also shows that non-tariff barriers can be overcome on the Japanese market.
The European Union also welcomes the example that Japan has set by communicating its findings clearly to its citizens and consumers. Responsible communication about any real, rather than imagined, risks associated with trade in food is important

At the same time, we welcome today's endorsement by Member States in the Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health to allow Japanese exports of beef and beef products to the EU market, which includes exports of sought after products such as “Kobe” beef. The EU internal market has delivered a high level of food safety for consumers in the EU and abroad alike, based on international standards and solid science. The agriculture and food sectors have to be able to capitalize on this achievement."

Reopening of the Japanese market for imports of EU beef and beef products since 1 February 2013

Japan introduced a ban on beef imports from the EU in 2001 following the BSE epidemic. Since then, the EU has made great progress in its battle against BSE. The consistent fall in the number of cases is testament to the robust and comprehensive EU measures put in place to eradicate this disease. Japan has thoroughly reviewed these measures and on 1 February acknowledged that scientific facts confirm that EU beef is safe.

The European Commission had regularly raised this issue with the Japanese authorities. The Japanese market opening is the result of that on-going dialogue, and in particular of the closer cooperation started when preparing for the negotiations of a free trade agreement.

Food Chain: Experts endorse authorisation of beef imports from Japan, 6 February 2013

Two new measures authorising the imports of beef from Japan were today endorsed by experts meeting in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH). One of the Commission proposals focused on the insertion of Japan into list of non-EU countries from which imports of beef into the EU is authorised and the other focused on the approval of a Japanese monitoring plan for substances and residues in bovine animals and their products. Lifting the restrictions currently in place will allow imports of sought-after products such as "Kobe" beef.

Back in 2010, the European Commission considered authorising imports of Japanese beef into the EU when Japan experienced outbreaks of foot and mouth disease (FMD). These outbreaks caused serious concerns and consequently the authorisation procedure was put on hold. Japan has been able to eradicate the disease and its status of FMD free country has been recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Satisfactory animal health and food safety guarantees - including a monitoring plan for substances and residues in bovine animals and their products - have been provided to the EU and therefore the authorisation procedure is resumed. The measures will enter into force following their publication in the Official Journal of the EU, which is expected in spring 2013.

For further information

EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement: Commissioner De Gucht welcomes Member States’ green light to start negotiations, 29 November 2013