Korea agrees to discuss beef dispute with U.S.

SOUTH KOREA - Korea has agreed to hold a meeting with the United States to address issues concerning current U.S. beef import issues, a Seoul Agriculture Ministry official said yesterday.
calendar icon 27 December 2006
clock icon 2 minute read
"We will meet (in Korea) early next month to address U.S. beef import issues," Kim Chang-seob, chief veterinary officer of the Agriculture Ministry, reoorts Yoo Soh-jung at the The Korea Herald.

Washington on Dec. 12 proposed holding a consultation meeting on the beef dispute stemming from import standards, which the U.S. government has criticized as having been "invented."

The talks will come on the heels of the sixth round of talks for a bilateral free trade agreement scheduled to begin in Korea on Jan. 15. As a condition for clinching a successful FTA with the world's largest economy, Washington has requested that Korea's beef market be fully open to U.S. competition.

Farmers of Asia's third-largest economy oppose more competition in fear of losing their livelihoods as a result of an influx of cheaper, high-quality American produce and livestock.

Korea was America's third-largest beef market until it banned imports in December 2003 following confirmation of a case of mad cow disease.

Seoul and Washington agreed in January to resume imports of de-boned skeletal muscle meat from cattle less than 30 months of age.

Seoul believes bones pose greater risk for mad cow disease.

The United States argues that such conditions go beyond international rules, which declare some bone in beef cuts to be safe.

But since the first imports arrived in September, Seoul has rejected shipments three times after detecting bone fragments in some meat slabs.

U.S. officials are expected to discuss Seoul's quarantine and inspection procedures.

With regards to Korea's position on the issue, Kim tersely said, "We will have to wait and see until the meeting."

Food safety regulations and animal health standards, or sanitary and phytosanitary regulations, have been one of the major challenging areas in the Korea-U.S. FTA negotiations. Seoul's "strict" regulations have been cited as barriers to trade.

Both countries had agreed to hold SPS talks on Dec. 19 and 20, separately from the fifth round of FTA talks, but the meetings were postponed over failure to agree on an overall agenda for treating various issues.

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