SHIPMENTS of US beef could be arriving in Japan by June.
Japan's ruling party has endorsed a decision to allow US methodology to determine the age of cattle for export to Japan.
This removes a large obstacle standing in the way of resumption of trade between the two countries.
But there are still several impediments to reopening the border.
US Meat Export Federation president Philip Seng said the report concerning elimination of Japan's order to test every slaughtered animal for BSE had taken longer than expected.
Even if the law was modified, it could still take considerable time to resolve almost certain objections in Japan's senate, he said.
The method of determining the age of cattle without birth records is similar to that used by USDA inspectors when grading beef.
Inspectors would visually examine carcasses and closely examine the teeth, bones and cartilage to determine grading quality.
The US convinced the Japanese panel that any beef rated A40 or lower was almost without exception from an animal 12-17 months of age, well under the 20-month cut-off demanded by the Japanese.
The decision is not expected to saturate the Japanese market with US beef as only 8pc of the American herd is A40 grade and much of that is consumed in the US.