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R-CALF as Savvy International Negotiators PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Thursday, 24 March 2005

"No One Told Us" Reveals a Lot

R-CALF officials are complaining that no one "officially" representing the Japanese government has told them that R-CALF's activities denigrating the safety of Canadian beef is helping delay opening the Japanese market.

The stunning thing about all this is that someone had to tell them at all. Those familiar with international negotiations, especially those involving negotiators as skilled and thorough as the Japanese, have been afraid of this for months. Focused on their supposed interests so narrowly, at least publicly, this never occurred to R-CALF.

Their goal was to keep imports out first, specifically, those imports from Canada. If there was any effect on exports, that would be secondary, according to their professed philosophy. And if there was any consequence for exports, their theory was that the Japanese would be more likely to open up to U.S. beef if there was no Canadian beef in the U.S. supply.

Of course, that isn't the way international negotiating goes with negotiators as wily as the Japanese. They would have used either situation in a negotiating position. They wouldn't have missed any arguments that obvious either way. But R-CALF apparently hadn't thought that far ahead.

The only solid ground for the U.S. government to stand on is the science of the matter - that beef from any animal slaughtered, with the proper SRMs removed, is safe. The under-30-month rule, since BSE is virtually never found in younger animals, is added margin. R-CALF is claiming the science isn't there. But nearly 20 years of science is solid. And findings in hamsters and lab mice have not been transferable to cattle.

R-CALF is pointing out that, unofficially, Japan is claiming that import negotiations with Canada and the U.S. are separate issues. That's virtually certain and, of course, they are going to say that for the record. That doesn't mean the two won't be linked in their minds or that such linkage won't be driving forces in behind-the-scenes moves.

The truth of the matter is that the Japanese had agreed on the basic science of the matter some time ago. They were going through the processes of revising their rules, and the issue was progressing.

The bottom line is that R-CALF opposes beef imports, no matter what the cost. And if it makes the opening of export markets more difficult, they have neither the time, nor the experience, to care or worry about it. That's someone else's problem.

Is this the kind of group cattlemen want careening around the international scene wreaking havoc and then saying, wide-eyed, "Who us? No one told us this could happen."

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 24 June 2006 )
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