Japan is believed to finalising details with the United States that will see it lift its ban on American beef imports clearing the way for America to resume exports to its biggest overseas market.

The talks between the two countries, which are taking place via a video conference, began at nine a.m. on Tuesday (20 June) and lasted well in to the early hours of Wednesday (21 June).  The talks resumed again later that day.

In reports led by Reuters and the BBC it is believed that the lifting of the ban is dependant on the successful inspection of 35 meatpacking plants in the U.S. that are approved to export beef to Japan.

Japan first banned the import of U.S. beef in December 2003 after it emerged that a cow confirmed to have BSE had entered the food chain.  At the time the Japanese beef market took 240,000 tonnes of U.S. beef worth $1.4bn (£758m).

Japan lifted the ban two years later, but reinstated it in January 2006 after it emerged that forbidden bone material was found in a shipment of veal from New York.

Even if consensus is reached between the two countries, exports are not expected to resume immediately.