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Power of five to fight snapback

Delegates at the 2003 Five Nations Beef Conference in Queenstown on the weekend are to use their collective influence to dissuade the Japanese government from implementing 'snapback' legislation on its beef imports.

Conference chairman Jeff Grant announced that the Five Nations' (Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and the United States) have decided to send a combined delegation to Tokyo to discuss the snapback with the Japanese government. "The Five Nations' make up 64 percent of international beef trade. We believe that with our combined strength we will be able to make a much stronger case to the Japanese on why they should not pass the snapback legislation."

Implementing the snapback will see tariffs on imported beef increased from 38.5 to 50 percent, Grant said. "Trade liberalisation is one of the Five Nations' priorities. We find the Japanese intention to implement the snapback legislation as unacceptable, and against the spirit of the WTO agreement."

The discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the Japanese herd in 2001 caused a dramatic drop in beef consumption in Japan. While consumption is recovering, it is not yet back to pre-BSE levels, Grant said. "The Japanese government has the ability to implement the snapback if beef imports increase more than 17 percent on the same quarter the previous year."

"The snapback is designed to protect Japan's domestic beef industry, but the recovery of imports into Japan won't have a negative affect on domestic production. Ultimately it will just hurt the beef industry and the Japanese consumers will suffer as well," Grant said.

The matter is one of urgency for the Five Nations, Grant said, because the Japanese government has to pass its legislation regarding imports by March. "If they do so, it is expected that the snapback would come into effect by August."

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