U.S. meat producer appeals for early resolution of "beef" row with Seoul

SOUTH KOREA - The head of the U.S. Meat Export Federation said Thursday he was confident of an amicable resolution of an ongoing beef spat between Seoul and Washington and set a tentative deadline of March 31.
calendar icon 23 February 2007
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Ending a three-year ban prompted by a mad cow scare, South Korea re-allowed imports of American beef last year but has since turned back three shipments totaling 22.3 tons after tiny bone chips were found in them.

South Korean quarantine officials defended their action as health-oriented but Washington accused Seoul of applying its safety regulations too strictly to block U.S. beef imports While the beef row is not technically part of ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations between the two countries, U.S. negotiators have said a deal won't be approved by their Congress unless Seoul fully reopens its market to the American meat.

South Korea and the U.S. are pushing to wrap up their nine-month-old FTA talks by the end of March, because U.S. officials have until April 2 to ready a deal for a mandatory 90-day congressional review for a yes-or-no vote without amendments under U.S. President George W. Bush's trade promotion authority, which expires on July 1.

Earlier this month, quarantine officials from the two countries met in Seoul to try to resolve the beef row but failed to make progress. No further talks are scheduled.

"My expectation is that will be worked out ... I think we should take one step for the time," Philip Seng told Yonhap News Agency. "And ... the first deadline is before the FTA." Philip Seng said.

Seng was in Seoul for talks with South Korean and industry and government officials on the issue.

Source: Yonhap News
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