TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan is likely to raise tariffs on frozen beef imports from the United States and some other countries to protect domestic producers against imports, according to local media, pending import data due out on Friday.
Tariffs on frozen beef would jump to 50 percent from the current 38.5 percent between Aug. 1 and the end of March next year if a "safeguard" mechanism designed to protect domestic farmers is triggered by the import data, local reports said on Thursday, without citing sources.
An increase would be the first time in 14 years the mechanism has been tripped, and would come as U.S. President Donald Trump tries to expand the American exports to Japan.
A tariff increase is automatic if quarterly beef imports from all nations and from countries that do not have economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with Japan both rise more than 17 percent from a year earlier, said an official with Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF).
If detailed Ministry of Finance trade data due out at 9:30 a.m. (0030 GMT) on Friday confirms a surge in beef imports high enough to trigger the increase, the finance ministry would make an official announcement, probably on Monday, said the farm ministry official who declined to be identified.
"We have not been given any projected figures, and I won't know until the data is out," the official said.
Nations that have EPAs with Japan, such as Australia, Mexico and Chile, will be excluded from any hike in tariffs, he said.
A Tokyo-based official with the U.S. Meat Export Federation said it cannot comment now, but added that the federation is set to issue a statement if Japan makes an official announcement.
Frozen beef imports from the United States have risen this year as another major supplier, Australia, was hit by drought, the Yomiuri daily newspaper said.
Still, the beef import figures for June would have to show a significant leap to trigger the tariff increase.
In April-May, the first two months of the current fiscal year, frozen beef imports from all nations rose 7.6 percent to 62,436 tonnes, with U.S. shipments rising 14.8 percent from a year ago to 20,530 tonnes, the data showed.
Japan's frozen beef imports in the year ended March 31, 2017, rose 2.2 percent to 286,000 tonnes, and included 94,300 tonnes from the United States, farm ministry data showed.
Frozen beef imports made up more than half of the total beef imports in the last business year.
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Joseph Radford and Tom Hogue)