Japan lifts twelve-year ban on Irish beef

Beef imports were banned by Tokyo government in 2001 after the BSE scandal in Europe

Taoiseach Enda Kenny  shakes hands with Japanese prime minister  Shinzo Abe at the start of their talks at Mr Abe’s official residence in Tokyo today. Photograph: Reuters

Taoiseach Enda Kenny shakes hands with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe at the start of their talks at Mr Abe’s official residence in Tokyo today. Photograph: Reuters

Mon, Dec 2, 2013, 12:38

Japan has formally lifted the ban on Irish beef, re-opening the world’s third largest market for the first time since 2001.

The announcement followed a meeting in Tokyo today between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

Mr Kenny, who is leading a major trade delegation, said the decision was “further evidence of the trust that exists” between the two countries, and called it “wonderful news” for Irish farming.

Bord Bia estimates that the short to medium term opportunity for Irish beef in Japan is worth between € 12 and € 15 million, with potential for expansion beyond that over time. Beef imports were banned after the BSE scandal erupted in Europe.

Earlier today, Mr Kenny told a business audience in Tokyo that Ireland has “restored its international reputation” ahead of its exit from the international bailout programme in two weeks.

Mr Kenny said inward investment is at “record levels” and Ireland is now the world’s number one country for labor flexibility and number two for “lack of protectionism.”

“We have the most open economy in the western world,” he said. “We have a pro-business environment, with a world-class R&D environment, and a competitive and transparent tax rate.”

“Ireland is proud to be recognised as one of the best small countries in the world in which to do business.”

The Taoiseach is on a five-day trip to Japan accompanied by representatives from 29 Irish companies, trying to build economic ties and drum up business.

In a series of speeches, he has stressed Ireland’s looming exit from the EU/IMF bailout on December 15th as evidence that the economy is back on track and looking for investors.

Ireland currently hosts about 50 Japanese companies, employing over 2,500 people.

The Irish business contingent is also looking for more access to Japan’s huge $5 trillion market. Mr Abe has pledged to boost inward investment and push through a EU-Japan free trade pact, potentially one of the world’s largest.

Irish business people in Japan welcomed the Taoiseach’s trip.

“The timing is perfect,” said Matthew Connolly, President of the Irish Japan Chamber of Commerce.

He said Mr Abe’s policies have pushed down the price of the yen, making it 35 percent cheaper to operate in Japan.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to do business here.”

But he said the Irish government needed “more people on the ground” in Tokyo to take advantage of the new business climate.

“It typically takes about two years to build relationships with local businesses here.”

The Taoiseach later announced that a consortium of Irish higher education institutions, led by NUI Galway, has been awarded €1.2 million to collaborate with Japanese universities with the aim of building “strategic partnerships” in research.