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


TOKYO — In un­wel­come news for Amer­i­can farm­ers, Ja­pan said Fri­day that it was im­pos­ing emer­gency tar­iffs of 50 per­cent on im­ports of frozen beef, mainly from the U.S.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Taro Aso an­nounced the move Fri­day, say­ing he was pre­pared to ex­plain the de­ci­sion to the U.S. side.

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

Ja­pan’s beef farm­ers are famed for their lus­cious mar­bled Kobe beef and other del­i­ca­cies, and the gov­ern­ment has long used tar­iffs and other mea­sures to pro­tect its farm­ers from for­eign com­pe­ti­tion. Still, prices for im­ported beef tend to be half or less those for beef from do­mes­ti­cally raised cat­tle.

The U.S. and Aus­tralia ac­count for 90 per­cent of all im­ports of frozen beef, which is mostly used by beef bowl, ham­burger and other fast food out­lets.

The usual tar­iff rate for frozen beef im­ports is 38.5 per­cent. Un­der World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion rules, Ja­pan can in­tro­duce safe­guard tar­iffs when im­ports rise more than 17 per­cent yearon-year in any given quar­ter.

U.S. farm­ers had been hop­ing for wider ac­cess to Ja­pan’s lu­cra­tive mar­ket through a Pa­cific Rim trade ini­tia­tive, the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship. But U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump with­drew from that ac­cord af­ter tak­ing of­fice.

Trade terms Ja­pan ne­go­ti­ated with the 10 other re­main­ing mem­bers of the TPP re­main in force. So Aus­tralia, the big­gest ri­val to U.S. beef ex­porters with a more fa­vor­able tar­iff rate of

27.5 per­cent for frozen beef, will not face the same jump in tar­iff rates thanks to a free trade agree­ment reached with Tokyo as part of the TPP talks.

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.

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.

The Fi­nance Min­istry re­ported 89,253 met­ric tons of frozen beef were im­ported so far this year.

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