Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and President Bush met Tuesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly to discuss the beef ban and other issues. Reports indicate that both leaders agree on the importance of resolving the beef trade dispute as early as possible in order for Japan to lift the ban on U.S. beef imports. "We do see eye-to-eye that beef trade should be resumed as soon as possible," Koizumi told reporters, however, no timeline was given.

U.S. officials had hoped to resolve the issue this summer but the two countries have yet to strike a deal mainly due to differences over the scope of beef cattle subject to testing for BSE. Earlier in the year, Japan officials told USDA that they would not accept any U.S> beef until all cattle being slaughtered, around 36 million head, were tested for BSE.   USDA countered that there was no scientific basis for such screening since BSE does not show up in cattle less than 30 months of age.

There have been talks in Japan indicating a willingness to exempt cattle 20 months and younger from BSE testing following a Japanese report by a panel of BSE experts that stated the disease is difficult to detect in cattle younger than 20 months old.  But U.S. officials indicate that even presents a logistical problem in setting a 20-month testing standard.