In a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, January 9, USDA Secretary Mike Johanns and Japanese Agriculture Minister Matsuoka will sit down to discuss beef trade. Currently, Japan is allowing imports of only a limited amount of U.S. beef under strict restrictions that the U.S. would like to see eased. After banning U.S. beef in December of 2003 due to BSE concerns, some beef began being shipped to Japan in July of 2006. By the end of October of last year the U.S. had exported 8,417 metric tons of beef and beef products worth $40.8 million to Japan for the year. The U.S. would like to see Japan lift the cattle age restriction on beef, allowing U.S. exports to increase. In a recent interview Ag Secretary Johanns stressed that the restriction was only meant for an "interim time period." Japan was the largest foreign market for U.S. beef before BSE was discovered here.