The US Department of Agriculture has proposed re-opening the border to imports of Kobe beef from Japan, after a near four-year ban, reported Reuters.

The US banned imports of beef from Japan after a case of mad cow disease, or BSE, was found there in September 2001. More than ten new cases have been discovered since. Then in December 2003, the US found a case of BSE in Washington state, prompting Japan to ban imports of US beef.

The two countries have since been locked in negotiations aimed at reopening the borders and resuming imports both ways.

The USDA said the US imported around US$0.8m worth of Kobe beef per year before the ban, reported Reuters.