U.S., Canada to work together to end beef ban

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While at Summit of the Americas in Monterrey, Mexico, President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin promised to work together to reassure consumers that North American beef is safe to eat following the identification of BSE in North America.

"The best way to make sure that we're able to satisfy the consumers in both our countries—as well as around the world—is for there to be very close coordination on regulation, on information and on the science," Bush told reporters. Martin added that restoring beef trade would depend on "science-based solutions" reached by both nations.

As for the outcome of the summit meeting, little change was made from previous meetings. There was a communiqué calling for the creation of a Free Trade Area. However, there is strong opposition in parts of Latin America to a new free trade zone before the U.S. agrees to slash agricultural subsidies.

Despite recent positive news about the minimal impact the BSE case has had on domestic consumption, USDA's monthly supply and demand report, released on Monday, projects a staggering 90 percent year-to-year decline in exports. Before key international markets banned imports of U.S. beef, annual exports were running about 2.6 billion pounds. The new report projects 2004 exports at just 220 million pounds. The report acknowledges that the projections are based on the import restrictions currently in place in more than two-dozen countries. Subsequent forecasts, the report notes, will reflect any announced changes in import policies. On a more positive note, the report says effects of BSE on U.S. meat production are expected to be minimal, and U.S. beef demand has remained firm.

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