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Enda looks to €15m beef deal as ban is lifted

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny enjoyed breakfast with US Vice President Joe Biden and America's new ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy in Tokyo today.

The half hour meeting was the first engagement for Mr Biden who is in Asia for to try resolve a dispute over Chinese air space.

But before talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe he had an informal meeting with the Taoiseach.

Mr Kenny also met with Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness who are also in Japan this week to hold talks with business representatives and investors.

Later the Taoiseach signed a memorandum of understanding involving the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and the Japan External Trade Organisation.

But the highlight of his trip was the end of a 13-year ban on the exportation of Irish beef and offal to Japan.

It has been lifted with immediate effect and the government will now turn its attention to securing a deal with China.

The deal will provide a multi-million euro boost for the beef industry, with Ireland now one of only three EU countries allowed to send beef to Japan.

The EU-wide ban has been in place since the BSE outbreak in 2000, but now Ireland has reopened export lines along with France and Denmark.

Speaking after the joint announcement with Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe, the Taoiseach said: "We reckon that this is worth about €15m a year, based on the fact that it was worth €10m in 2000 and we have to rebuild the market.

"Clearly this is of great significance to Ireland and Irish farming. It's been a very satisfactory outcome to a situation where the prime minister himself took a particular and personal interest."


Both Mr Kenny and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney confirmed talks are ongoing with China to allow the importation of Irish meat produce, with a group of experts from the Department of Agriculture due to take part in talks in China next week.

According to Minister Coveney, who joined the Taoiseach in Tokyo, the group are part of a committee set up by the Irish and Chinese governments to discuss opening a beef trade with the superpower.

"Hopefully we'll make progress on it, but we need to be patient, and certainly getting the Japanese market open today will be helpful," he said.

The Taoiseach said that the visit to Ireland of Chinese premier – then vice-premier – Xi Jinping in 2011 and his own return visit to Beijing shortly afterwards was very significant.