WASHINGTON (Kyodo) -- A group of U.S. senators have tabled a resolution urging Japan to lift its restrictions on beef imports from the United States over fear of mad cow disease, according to a Senate farm committee statement.
Blanche Lincoln, a Democrat from Arkansas, and Mike Johanns, a Republican from Nebraska, jointly submitted the resolution with 17 other senators joining as cosponsors.
The resolution states that "Japan should immediately expand market access for American beef products" and urges the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to insist on increased market access from Japan.
Lincoln, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said in her statement that American beef producers have lost an average $1.4 billion annually since 2003 due mainly to a lack of export markets.
Lincoln said Asia continues to be the greatest growth potential for American beef products. "These nontariff trade barriers from Japan must be brought down," she said.
Johanns, former secretary of agriculture, also said in his statement, "For too long, Japan has been grossly unfair in its treatment of U.S. beef and beef producers for reasons that defy scientific rationalization, even as the United States goes out of its way to treat Japanese products fairly."
"We have proven that U.S. beef is safe for consumption," the senator said. "Japan must recognize that fact and remove its non-scientific barriers to our beef sales."
The resolution was submitted ahead of a planned visit to Japan by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in April. Observers say the Senate may step up pressure on Japan before his travel to Tokyo.
Japan and the United States are at loggerheads over Washington's insistence that Tokyo abolish all of its limits on U.S. beef imports for meat coming from cattle aged 20 months or younger.
Tokyo suspended beef imports from the United States after the first U.S. case of mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, was found in 2003.
Later, it reopened the market under certain conditions, including age limit.