US urges Japan to open markets further

WASHINGTON: The United States Monday urged Japan to open its markets further, notably in sectors such as beef and insurance services, as part of an annual review of bilateral trade.

The office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said Japan had made progress in liberalizing trade but called for additional efforts.

"I welcome the results we are seeing through this engagement with Japan, which for American exporters and service providers is helping to create new opportunities with our fourth largest trading partner and goods export market," said USTR Rob Kirk.

"Removing non-tariff barriers to trade and improving transparency in foreign markets are high priorities for the United States, and going forward I look to ensure this important work is strengthened further."

Kirk added that "normalizing trade for US beef and securing a level playing field for US insurance providers are two issues that remain of serious concern. I look to Japan to ensure these concerns are addressed as quickly as possible."

The report under the US-Japan Regulatory Reform and Competition Policy Initiative, said important progress had been made in key areas.

Progress was cited in regulatory reviews for pharmaceuticals and medical devices; strengthening protections for music and motion pictures and curbing illegal downloads; approving new food additives already considered safe around the world; and improving entry and exit requirements for US executives residing in Japan.

Japan initially banned US beef in December 2003 after the brain-wasting cattle disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was found in a US herd. Japan had until then been the US cattle industry's biggest export market.

But Tokyo in July 2006 agreed to resume US beef imports on condition the cattle were not more than 20 months old at the time of slaughter, with brains, spinal cords and other risky parts removed.