The way Sen. Pat Roberts figures it, Japan's ban on imports of U.S. beef had better end soon - or Japan just might find itself paying higher prices to sell its own products here in the U.S.
Roberts, R-Kan., plans to introduce a bill today that would authorize the United States to impose tariffs on Japanese imports, unless Japan agrees to lift its ban on U.S. beef by Aug. 31.
Japan suspended U.S. beef imports Jan. 20, a month after lifting a 2-year-old ban that had been imposed because of concerns about mad cow disease. The latest suspension came after Japanese inspectors found banned cattle parts in a veal shipment.
Roberts, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has been pushing to reopen the market. Before the ban, Japan had been the biggest importer of U.S. beef.
The upcoming bill comes as Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi prepares to visit Washington on June 29 for talks with President Bush.
"I think this is a clear-cut signal to the Japanese that they need to abide by internationally recognized standards or face consequences," said Sarah Ross Little, a Roberts spokeswoman.
Tariffs could be imposed on Japanese products, she said.
"It could be on cars, tires, products," Little said. "Any export."
Lifting the ban could boost revenues for cattle producers in Douglas County by $500,000 a year, by increasing demand for beef, said Bill Wood, the county's ag extension agent for K-State Research & Extension.
"It counts," he said.
Cattle from the county already account for about $5 million a year in revenue, a fraction of the more than $5 billion a year that the beef industry represents in Kansas.
The bill is being introduced by Roberts and Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.