WASHINGTON – Sen. John Thune introduced legislation today to reopen the Japanese market to U.S. beef imports, after an unsatisfactory meeting last week with the Japanese ambassador.

“The Japanese ambassador could not tell us when the border will reopen – and that’s not acceptable,” Thune said. “Those of us representing cattle country have lost patience with Japan.”

Thune’s resolution directs the U.S. Trade Representative to seek economic sanctions against Japan if it does not reopen its borders to U.S. beef. The resolution has nine Senate co-sponsors and mirrors a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced by Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).

“Japan owes American ranchers more action and less bureaucratic double-talk,” Thune said. “American consumers and ranchers know American beef is safe. Japan has no scientific reason not to open the border. Japan’s ban amounts an unfair trade barrier and requires a strong U.S. response. This resolution will deliver a strong message to the Japanese government to reopen the border. Japan must understand that there will be consequences to their continued inaction.”

Last Friday, Thune, Moran and a bipartisan group of U.S. senators met with Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato. Following the meeting, Thune told reporters that the Japanese ambassador failed to deliver a satisfactory explanation for the closed borders.

“It sounded like a bunch of bureaucratic mumbo jumbo,” Thune said. “It is terribly frustrating that there are no timelines. There are no deadlines. There is no indication that there was any certainty about when the border will reopen.”

Japan closed its borders to U.S. beef after the U.S. discovered a single case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), in a Canadian dairy cow in December of 2003. Since that time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has aggressively implemented additional safety checks in the beef system to guarantee the safety of American beef. Nevertheless, Japan has still has no imminent plans to re-open its borders.

Thune’s resolution calls on Japan to meet its trade obligations under an agreement reached on Oct. 23, 2004. If Japan fails to abide by the agreement to reopen its border, then the U.S. Trade Representative should initiate immediate retaliatory economic measures on Japan.

Since Japan closed its markets to U.S. beef in December 2003, the U.S. has lost an estimated $2 billion in sales.