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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Craig Thomas and Mike Enzi, both R-Wyo., urged U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman to take action against Japan that would protect the nation’s cattle markets from “an unwarranted and unjustified trade barrier,” by employing economic sanctions.

“Japan needs to follow through with its promises. The continued embargo costs the U.S. beef industry $100 million a month. If Japan is going to keep throwing up roadblocks, we need to take retaliatory action. It’s time for the U.S. to assert itself on trade concerns. Our beef is safe and Japan knows it,” said Thomas.

“Wyoming ranchers are suffering because the Japanese government is not holding up its end of the bargain,” said Enzi. “A year ago this month Japan agreed to let our beef back in but instead of opening the border they are dragging their feet. Hundreds of thousands of scientific tests on American cows have confirmed that mad cow contamination danger is exceedingly unlikely. It seems like Japan is blocking this more for economic reasons than for health reasons.”

Enzi and Thomas, along with 19 other senators, wrote a letter to Ambassador Portman outlining their request that he implement economic sanctions on Japanese goods imported into the U.S. The sanctions would be at a level comparable to the losses incurred in the beef industry.

Japan has prohibited imports of beef from the U.S. since 2003 when mad cow disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was found in a Canadian-born animal in Washington State. In Oct. 2004 the U.S. and Japan signed a mutual agreement to resume the beef trade, but Japan has not yet completed the regulations to do so.

Estimates indicate that the U.S. beef industry loses $100 million every month the Japanese border remains closed to U.S. beef. Since the first border closure in 2003 the U.S. beef industry has lost about $6 billion in income.

The Senate passed an amendment in the Fiscal Year 2006 Agriculture Appropriations bill to keep the U.S. border closed to Japanese beef until they allow the re-entry of U.S. beef.