Japan has lifted its remaining trade restrictions on Canadian beef, 16 years after the discovery of a case of BSE in Alberta.
News that Japan — Canada’s third largest agricultural trade partner — will begin accepting Canadian beef from cattle older than 30 months of age was announced earlier this week by federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr. The change represents the final Japanese market access barrier to fall since that country closed its borders to Canadian beef in 2003, following the confirmation of a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Alberta.
A total of 40 countries closed their borders to Canadian beef during the height of the 2003 BSE crisis, resulting in billions of dollars in losses for the industry. While most of those restrictions were lifted in the following months and years, some remained for the long-term. A new case of BSE discovered on a northern Alberta farm in 2015 resulted in additional temporary suspensions in a handful of markets.
Canada’s top beef export markets
- United States
- Hong Kong
Source: Statistics Canada
Fawn Jackson, senior manager of government and foreign relations for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, said restoring full market access for Canadian beef producers has been an ongoing effort requiring “a number of steps over a number of years.” She said the industry is hopeful that Japan’s move will influence other countries — such as Taiwan and South Korea — that still have partial bans in place.
“That’s certainly what we would hope, that people would look at the decision Japan made based on their risk analysis and take into consideration how that might be applicable to their countries,” Jackson said. “We encourage the Canadian government and other governments to work together to find a path forward.”
“The complete removal of 16-year-old Japanese trade restrictions on Canadian beef are important for Alberta’s livestock sector and should serve as a model for other countries that still restrict world class Alberta beef,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Friday in a tweet.
Japan is an important market for Canadian beef, with exports totalling almost $215 million in 2018. According to industry estimates, the expanded market access announced this week has the potential to further increase exports by up to 20 per cent. That comes on top of the startling gains the Canadian beef industry has already made in the Japanese market so far this year — according to Statistics Canada, beef exports to Japan totaled $68.7 million in the first three months of 2019, a 117 per cent increase over the same period last year.
Canadian beef exports to Japan (Cdn dollars):
January – March 2018 – $31.6 million
January – March 2019 – $68.7 million
An increase of 117 per cent
Source: Statistics Canada
Jackson said many of those gains can be attributed to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a trade agreement between Canada and 10 other countries (including Japan) in the Asia-Pacific region. The CPTPP came into force in December 2018, and had the effect of lowering the tariff on Canadian beef shipped to Japan from 38 to 26 per cent. The tariff will eventually be lowered to 9 per cent over the next 14 years.
While the U.S. is expected to reach its own bilateral trade agreement with Japan at some point, it does not yet have one and it is not part of the CPTPP — meaning right now, Canada has a distinct beef trade advantage over its biggest competitor .
“We’re really quite excited about CPTPP and the opportunity that offers, and then with this (the lifting of the BSE-related restriction), we’re just going to see continued growth into the Japanese market,” Jackson said.
The enhanced market access announcement came just a week after the G20 Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting and trade visit to Japan by federal Minister Bibeau. Trade Minister Carr is expected to also travel to Japan in June, in an effort to grow market access for canola producers who have been negatively affected by China’s decision to block shipments of the Canadian crop in light of an ongoing diplomatic spat.
Canada produces approximately 1.3 million tonnes of beef annually, and exported 38 per cent of that in 2018 for a record high total of $2.75 billion. The Canadian beef industry ships to 56 countries but is reliant on the U.S. for 74 per cent of all exports. Japan is the industry’s next largest market, accounting for approximately 8 per cent of beef exports.
On Twitter: @AmandaMsteph
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019