Japan discuss with U.S. lifting import ban on U.S. beef

Japanese Agriculture Ministry consumption safety director Hiroshi Nakagawa and his U.S. counterpart Chuck Lambert, acting undersecretary for marketing and regulatory program, as well as other directors from Japanese Foreign and Health ministries are taking part in Tuesday's teleconference, according to Foreign Ministry official Junichi Takahashi.

News reports have said the two sides are expected to reach an agreement on Japan's lifting of beef import ban at the teleconference.

Tokyo has not given a timetable for resuming U.S. beef imports, but Japanese media predicted that the lifting of the current ban would allow a first shipment of the U.S. beef imports to arrive in Japan after mid-July at the earliest.

Japan ended a two-year-old ban on U.S. beef imports last December but closed its market again in January following an illegal U.S. shipment of parts banned under bilateral agreement, according to the AP.

Washington has urged Tokyo to expedite import resumption, but Japan has said it will not formally end the ban until it has completed a series of public consultations, which ended earlier this month, and ensure necessary precautions are taken by the United States.

Japan wants to lift the ban after confirming U.S. safeguard measures against mad cow disease have been stepped up and resume imports only from the facilities that abide by the rules, officials said.