No deadline for talks on resuming imports of U.S. bone-in beef: vice minister

SEOUL - South Korea has no deadline to conclude negotiations that could reopen its market to U.S. bone-in beef, a senior official said Wednesday.
calendar icon 11 April 2007
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Vice Agriculture Minister Park Hae-sang told reporters that there is no basis to speculation that Seoul is pushing to conclude talks to set new American beef import guidelines within 2-3 months.

The remark comes as Washington policymakers said the South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) reached on April 2 will not be formally signed until Seoul eases import guidelines that have prevented bone-in beef, like ribs, from being sold in the country. There have also been hints within the South Korean government that import talks may be concluded as early as July.

The official added Seoul plans to hold immediate talks with the United States after the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) releases its mad cow risk assessment in late May. The OIE is expected to classify the U.S. as a mad cow disease "controlled risk" country, which could technically allow exports of bone-in beef.

"I cannot predict when the new import talks will be concluded," the official said. He added that while Seoul has no intention of prolonging the talks, it does not plan to reduce its eight-point risk analysis checklist either. He said there is always a chance that unforeseen events could cause delays.

Source: YonhapNews
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