Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the committee’s Ranking Member, have urged U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to work closely together in addressing barriers imposed by China and Japan regarding U.S. beef imports, in a joint letter signed by 39 Senate colleagues.

The letter also follows up on and welcomes a pledge made by Ambassador Demetrios Marantis to meet with China and Japan to discuss the restrictions.

“We believe continuous high-level engagement by USTR and USDA is critical to making progress towards ending China and Japan’s unscientific restrictions to U.S. beef products,” the letter states.

“To maintain and expand the global market for U.S. beef, there must now be stronger, sustained outreach to China, Japan, and other countries that continue to limit access to our beef.”

The U.S. adopted extraordinarily rigorous safeguards against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), after an occurrence of BSE was discovered in 2003.

Despite the conclusion by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) that U.S. beef of all ages is safe, Japan still maintains an unscientific ban on U.S. beef over 20 months of age.

As a result, U.S. beef exports to Japan remain nearly $1 billion below their pre-2003 levels.

Similarly, China has been the fastest growing market for U.S. exports overall during the last decade, but remains the only major market completely closed to U.S. beef due to BSE.

“We commend the Administration’s engagement earlier this year with China on greater market access for U.S. beef,” the letter states.

“There now needs to be immediate follow up to these discussions in order to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to eliminate unscientific trade barriers to U.S. beef exports.”