Beef Row Threatens U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement

SOUTH KOREA - A potential free trade agreement between the United States and South Korea hinges on something not even officially part of the intense negotiations: the complete resumption of American beef imports into the world's 10th-largest economy.
calendar icon 20 January 2007
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These are separate discussions from the FTA," Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler said Friday, referring to so far unsuccessful efforts to get U.S. beef back onto the plates of South Korean consumers.

"But as the United States has made clear from day one of these negotiations, in order for the FTA to happen we're gonna need to see a full reopening of Korea's beef market," she told a press conference.

Cutler, besides being Washington's chief negotiator in the effort to forge a free trade deal with South Korea, is also responsible for bilateral trade issues with the country, the United States' seventh-largest trading partner.

She brought the issue front and center this week, repeating several times that unless U.S. beef is allowed back in restaurants and supermarkets the free trade agreement would not be achieved.

Cutler and her negotiating team met their South Korean counterparts for five days in Seoul to try and make progress on the free trade issue, concluding Friday their sixth round of negotiations since June.

They have yet to announce major breakthroughs and remain apart on key issues including antidumping provisions, automobiles and pharmaceuticals. They plan to meet again next month in Washington.

A deal, if achieved, would be the biggest for Washington since the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1993.

Source: Yahoo Finance
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