5 Years in Waiting: S Korea Opens Market to US

US - At the end of the year 2003 South Korea closed its market to American beef due to a discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). It's been a long wait for the market to reopen, but after intense discussions last week, trading will resume as of next month.
calendar icon 21 April 2008
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South Korea has agreed to open its market to U.S. beef products from cattle of all ages. The policy change will take effect in mid-May, according to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Susan Schwab.

“This is outstanding news for the U.S. beef industry and for South Korean consumers,” said Philip M. Seng, president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). “Our industry has lost between $3.5 billion and $4 billion in beef exports to South Korea since the end of 2003. And we know that there is a significant demand there for quality U.S. beef that has not been satisfied for more than four years.”

The announcement by the USTR notes that the import protocol agreed upon with the South Korean government will allow U.S. beef and beef products from cattle of all ages, which is consistent with World Animal Health Organization (OIE) guidelines and prevailing international standards.

In 2003, the United States exported 543.6 million pounds of beef and beef variety meats to South Korea, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics. In 2007, the U.S. exported an estimated 53.4 million pounds valued at $117.3 million, although shipments were limited to boneless beef from cattle under 30 months of age, and the market was only open for an intermittent five months during the year.

“While this is momentous news for the U.S. beef industry, it also clears one of the major obstacles to the approval of a formal free trade agreement between our two nations,” said Seng. “The U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement, when fully implemented, will deliver significant benefits to the U.S. beef and pork industries as well as to South Korean consumers.”

In the first step of the agreement, South Korea will allow the importation of all U.S. beef from cattle under 30 months of age, including bone-in beef. The second phase of the agreement, which will expand to include cattle of all ages, will be triggered by an announcement by the United States of enhancements to the U.S. livestock feed ban. More details on this will be released as they become available.

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