This comes after Japan stopped importing U.S. beef on January 20, when spinal bone was found in a shipment of veal. Japan considers bone to be at risk for mad cow disease.
Going into the talks, USDA secretary Mike Johanns told reporters, "There'll probably be some additional questions. We'll respond to those very quickly. But there's a point where this needs to be resolved, and we have really reached that point now."
USDA has been telling the Japanese that the shipment of the prohibited veal was due to a government inspector's misunderstanding of the new rules for selling beef to Japan.
That misunderstanding has been costly to the U.S. beef industry. Prior to the ban, Japan was one of the largest purchasers of U.S. beef, buying $1.4 billion worth in 2003.
Meanwhile, Japan has replaced American beef products in large part with Australian beef. The country down under now makes up 51% of the beef consumed in Japan. That's 412,000 tons of beef last year – up from 284,000 tons in 2003.
Beef imports from New Zealand to Japan have also grown. And Canada is re-entering the Japan market after its beef products – like the U.S. -- were banned in 2003 due to the discovery of mad cow in that country.