Seoul upbeat on beef talks

SOUTH KOREA - Korea is upbeat that imports of U.S. beef will resume within the month, although it is only going to resubmit the same proposal to the United States in high-level agriculture talks to be held today, Seoul's top negotiator said.
calendar icon 5 March 2007
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Negotiators from the two sides will hold a two-day negotiation to discuss Seoul's quarantine standards, which have effectively prevented American beef from being sold in the country.

"We will offer, once again, that we will not reject the entire shipment of U.S. beef over some packages found to contain bone fragments," said Min Dong-seok, assistant minister for agriculture trade policy, leaving for Washington on Friday.

The United States had rejected a compromise last month, demanding a change to Seoul's stance of importing boneless beef only. It argues it is nearly impossible for every slab of meat to be absolutely free of bone fragments.

South Korea had been the third-largest importer of American beef before it imposed a ban in December 2003 following a reported case of mad cow disease in the country. Seoul agreed in January 2006 to allow a partial resumption of imports. Under the pact, only de-boned beef from cattle aged 30 months or younger could be sold in the country.

Seoul conducts x-ray screenings of all shipments entering the country to check for bones. Korea has three times rejected shipments of U.S. beef, totaling 22.3 tons, after lifting the nearly three-year ban in September 2006.

Other officials at the Ministry of Agriculture were also upbeat yesterday that the United States will agree to the compromise it had offered this time and went on to say that the Korean government will do what it has to do to help trading firms follow the case-by-case importation guideline.

Source: The Korea Herald
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