U.S. beef investigation to be finished within a week in Japan

The U.S. government's investigation into the faulty beef shipment that prompted Japan to close its market to American meat should be finished and presented to the Japanese government in about a week, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer said Friday. "The whole investigation will be probably be concluded in the next week or so," Schieffer told a small group of reporters at his residence in Tokyo. He said that the report would quickly be presented to the Japanese government to get Tokyo's ideas on what further steps need to be taken to reopen the market.

Some in Japan have suggested that Japanese inspectors should be allowed to scrutinize the U.S. plants producing beef for the Japanese market. Schieffer said such a measure could be helpful in winning back the confidence of Japanese consumers. "I think we are amenable to the idea of the Japanese inspecting these plants," he said.

The ambassador also said, however, that he saw signs that the U.S. Congress was losing patience with the Japanese restrictions on U.S. beef imports. He said he hoped tensions over the issue would not spark a trade war.

"You don't want beef to be a contributing factor to the whole trade relationship running off the tracks," he said.

Tokyo had banned American beef imports in 2003 after the first case of mad cow disease was discovered in the United States. That ban was eased Dec. 12, but imports were halted again in January after a beef shipment arrived in Japan with banned spinal bones in it. Japan considers such bones to be at risk for mad cow disease, reports the AP.

I.L.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team