WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A USDA technical team will meet with Japanese government officials next Tuesday and Wednesday to answer questions and press for the reopening of the Japanese market to U.S. beef.

"The United States is eager to provide any additional clarification Japan may request so we can resume beef exports to Japan as quickly as possible," Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said. "I believe our report is thorough and actions address the unique circumstances surrounding this ineligible shipment. Now my hope is that we can take the next steps toward resumption of normal trade."

Johanns directed that a USDA technical team go to Japan after the Japanese government signaled a willingness to receive USDA experts.

The team will be led by Marketing and Regulatory Programs Acting Under Secretary, Chuck Lambert. Also on the team will be representatives from USDA's Food Safety & Inspection Service, Agriculture Marketing Service, Foreign Agricultural Service and the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service.

Japan reopened its market to U.S. beef on Dec. 11, 2005, but halted U.S. beef imports on Jan. 20, 2006, after receiving a shipment of U.S. beef that did not meet the specifications of the U.S. export agreement with Japan, but posed no food safety risk.

(Release corrected at 10:50 a.m. 3/23 after USDA corrected meeting dates.)

SOURCE: USDA news release.