Understanding the New Safeguard Policy for U.S. Beef in Japan

In 2021, beef and beef products were the third highest exports for the U.S. ($10.6 bill.), behind soybeans ($27.4 bill.) and corn ($18.7 bill.) (USDA, 2022a). A key trading partner for the U.S. beef sector is Japan ($2.4 bill. in 2021), which was the leading foreign market for U.S. beef by volume. Through existing trade agreements (e.g., U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement [USJTA], Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership [CPTPP]), the U.S. and major competitors like Australia face lower beef tariffs in Japan relative to the Most Favored Nation (MFN) rate of 38.5%. The tariff rate for the U.S. and Australian beef in Japan (excluding offal and processed products) is currently 24.1% and is continually declining to 9% by 2033. However, both USJTA and CPTPP allow the Japanese government to increase tariffs on beef products when imports from the U.S. or CPTPP countries exceed a certain volume during a specified period. This specified volume is often referred to as a safeguard. In general, safeguard measures are used to limit excessive import growth by allowing governments to increase tariffs on a product when imports exceed a certain level during a specified period.

U.S. beef faced a particularly restrictive safeguard in Japan of 242,000 metric tons (MT) when USJTA was enforced in 2020 and in 2021 (Japanese fiscal years: April-March). Japan’s beef safeguard for CPTPP countries was 625,400 MT during this period. The CPTPP safeguard was predominantly applied to Australian beef given Japan’s limited beef imports from other CPTPP countries, and unlike the U.S. safeguard, significantly higher than actual imports from all non-U.S. countries, let alone Australia (See Figure 1). This safeguard difference put U.S. beef at a significant disadvantage relative to Australian beef in the Japanese market because U.S. exports to Japan averaged more than 245,000 MT per year between 2017–2021. Thus, it was no surprise that the safeguard was triggered after the first year of USJTA’s enforcement, leading Japan to raise tariffs on U.S. beef to 38.5% for one month. Consequently, the U.S. government was able to negotiate a new three-trigger safeguard mechanism for U.S. beef in Japan this year. Moving forward, the Japanese government can increase tariffs on U.S. beef only if all the following occur: 1) Imports of U.S. beef exceed the USJTA beef safeguard; 2) The total volume of beef from the U.S. and original CPTPP countries exceed the CPTPP beef safeguard; and 3) imports of U.S. beef exceed imports from the previous year (USDA 2022b). The most important aspect of this change is that the U.S. and Australia are now essentially sharing the CPTPP safeguard. That is, even if Japan’s imports of U.S. beef increase and exceed the USJTA 2022 safeguard (246,900 MT), the Japanese government can raise tariffs on U.S. beef only if total beef imports from the U.S. and CPTPP countries exceed 637,200 MT (CPTPP safeguard for 2022), which is not likely to occur.

Figure 1. Japan’s Beef Imports (2017 –2021) and Respective CPTPP and USJTA Safeguard Triggers for 2022

Note: Data include fresh, chilled, and frozen beef (HS 0201 and HS 0202) since imports of offal and processed products do not count against the safeguard level. Years are Japanese fiscal years (April-March). Japan agreed to incrementally increase the safeguards each year. Hence, the slightly higher 2022 safeguards.
Source: Imports: Trade Data Monitor® (2022); Safeguard information: Muhammad et al. (2021)


Muhammad, A., Griffith, A., Martinez, C., and Thompson, J. (2021). Safeguard Measures and US Beef Exports to Japan. UT Extension Publication W1023. https://ageconsearch.umn.edu/record/313523

Trade Data Monitor® (2022). https://www.tradedatamonitor.com/

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Foreign Agricultural Service (2022a). Global Agricultural Trade System. https://apps.fas.usda.gov/gats/default.aspx

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Foreign Agricultural Service (2022b). U.S., Japan Reach Deal on Beef Tariff Safeguard. FAS Press Release. https://www.fas.usda.gov/newsroom/us-japan-reach-deal-beef-tariff-safeguard

Muhammad, Andrew, and Charley Martinez. “Understanding the New Safeguard Policy for U.S. Beef in Japan.” Southern Ag Today 2(27.4). June 30, 2022. Permalink