Removal of tariffs on U.S. beef difficult.

SEOUL - South Korea cannot accept U.S. demands that Seoul abolish import tariffs on American beef and oranges to seal a bilateral free trade deal, a top policymaker said Thursday.
calendar icon 29 March 2007
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"It is difficult to remove tariffs on (U.S.) beef completely," Agriculture Minister Park Hong-soo told Yonhap News. "Import tariffs should be cut gradually over the next 10 years so that domestic livestock farms can withstand it."

Park's comments came as South Korean and U.S. officials were holding free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations in Seoul. The U.S. has insisted on Seoul's removal of all import tariffs on its beef.

South Korea currently imposes an import tariff of 40 percent on U.S. beef and 50 percent on oranges.

Park also said South Korea cannot discuss the import of "bone-in" beef until the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) issues its opinion on the health risks of U.S. beef in May.

South Korea banned U.S. beef imports in late 2003 after a case of mad cow disease was reported. In January 2006, Seoul agreed to lift the ban for de-boned beef from cattle under 30 months old.

No U.S. beef has hit the market since then, however, because of differences over what constitutes de-boned beef. The three shipments of American beef that have arrived in the country since late October have been sent back because small bone chips were found in them.

Source: Yonhap
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