June 18, 2006 - "Enough is Enough"

The Japanese government, it seems, has more reasons to keep their borders closed to American beef than oil company executives have in explaining that their huge profits do not come on the backs of American motorists. Frustration in both areas is growing sharply. If frustration doesn’t lead to action, it generally leads to ulcers.

That is why this week I commend the executive committee of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association who voted unanimously to support retaliatory measures against Japan if they don’t open the border soon. Key leaders in Congress have been increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress by the Japanese to resolve the Beef Trade issue.

A few days ago, the Japanese government said it had concluded its meetings with industry officials and consumers. Based on what they heard, they said they will soon be ready to send teams to America to inspect the plants that are cleared to export beef to Japan and then, open the border.

Industry officials tell me that could take two or three months, which means the ban would continue well into September. So...the NCBA Executive Committee voted unanimously to work for passage of legislation to instruct the administration to institute agriculture and non-agriculture sanctions on Japan if trade is not resumed. Secondly, they urge passage of Senate Bill 3364 introduced by Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. I like this bill because it would ban the importation of Japanese beef into the U.S. until Japan opens its borders to U.S. beef.

We don’t import much beef from Japan, but that move would satisfy a Montana cattleman who e-mailed me a few days ago suggesting that we at least "fire a shot across the bow" and stop taking Japanese beef into this country. I can assure you it would bring howls of protest and charges of "trade war" from across the Pacific.

The message that I would continue to send Japanese consumers who express concern about the safety of U.S. beef is this..... "In Japan, you have five times as many cases of ‘mad cow’ disease as we have in the U.S. You should be far more concerned about the safety of your beef."

NCBA President, Mike Johns, said the last thing we want is a trade war, but at some point, you just have to say "enough is enough". It is time for President Bush and the members of Congress to deliver that message to Japan....and mean it!

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.