U.S. beef industry steps up pressure on Korea for full market opening

US - U.S. beef industry leaders last week increased the pressure on South Korea, demanding Seoul open its market in full by the time a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) is concluded.
calendar icon 15 January 2007
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In meetings and a letter to the American FTA negotiators, the industry leaders said South Korea should accept not only boneless products as initially agreed, but also bone-in U.S. beef as well to restore trade to the 2003 level before the mad cow disease scare.

The added pressure comes just days before the two countries sit down for a sixth round of FTA negotiations in South Korea as the deadline nears for them to wrap up an agreement.

In a letter dated Jan. 8, sent to U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, American beef exporters said a resolution of the dispute with South Korea "needs to be broader than bone chips." Seoul stopped importing U.S. beef in December 2003 when a case of mad cow disease was discovered on an American cattle ranch, but agreed in January 2006 to resume buying boneless products from cattle younger than 30 months, considering them to be safe from the disease.

But subsequent U.S. shipments were all turned away when bone chips were detected. U.S. officials say the discovered fragments do not pose any risks and accuse South Korea or enforcing the rules too strictly.

The issue has complicated the FTA negotiations, which the two countries need to wrap up by the end of March in order to pass it through the U.S. Congress before the expiration of President George W. Bush's trade promotion authority, legislation requiring the Congress to give the FTA an up or down vote without seeking amendments.

Source: Yonhap News

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