Asia Briefing: End of beef ban in Japan to open way for move in China
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Japanese prime minister Shinzõ Abe last week. photograph: yoshikazu tsuno/epa
As my colleagues David McNeill and Miriam Lord reported from Tokyo this week during Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s visit to Japan, the reopening of the Japanese market to Irish beef has improved the chances of a similar move in China.
Japan announced the ending of the 13-year-old ban, imposed after the BSE outbreak in 2000, following Mr Kenny’s meeting with Japan’s prime minister Shinzõ Abe, and this means Ireland joins fellow EU countries Denmark and France – bans on whose beef were lifted in February – in being allowed to sell beef there.
Market potentially huge
The Taoiseach said: “Clearly the platform exists in Ireland to conclude a deal with China in due course also.”
Ending the 13-year ban would be a major development for Irish agriculture.
A group of experts from the Department of Agriculture was due to come to China to hold talks about the ban on Irish beef this month, so that beef can join pork and seafood among Ireland’s food exports to the world’s second biggest economy.
How realistic is the prospect of China opening up the beef market to Ireland? It’s a tough call. Ireland has been knocking on the door for a long time, as the Chinese market is potentially a huge one.
One issue is that the ban is on beef from the European Union, so the question is whether the market would be opened to Ireland alone, or whether it would require an EU-wide agreement.
Competition for access to China’s markets can be tough, and our neighbours in Britain are among the best in the EU at unlocking the market.
British prime minister David Cameron was in China last week and he came away with a number of major trade deals, including a €54 million deal to supply pig semen to Chinese breeders from plants in England and Northern Ireland.
The EU is not too enthusiastic about countries acting alone on these matters, but the general view among people in the industry is that the lifting of a ban for one country often opens the door for others to gain access.