South Korea and the US failed to reach agreement in yet another round of ministerial beef talks held in Washington yesterday – the third of its kind since Friday, reports the Korea Times.
This latest beef spat could have implications for the ratification of the US/Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) struck in 2007, which would create lucrative new export opportunities for US produce growers.
The South Korean cabinet offered to resign en masse last week after escalating public protests over the government’s decision to resume US beef imports after a five-year ban.
Critics claim the decision to lift the ban (imposed after a case of mad cow disease was reported in the US in 2003) was undemocratic and designed purely to clear the way for the government’s free trade agreement with the US.
Protesters have demanded that the beef deal is either renegotiated or scrapped.
The US and South Korea FTA, concluded in April 2007, reportedly represents the US’ most commercially significant in over a decade and awaits ratification by legislatures on both sides.
The deal will create highly valuable new export opportunities for US growers by eliminating and phasing out tariffs and quotas on a broad range of products, according to the USDA. Under the agreement, over US$1bn worth of US farm exports to Korea will become duty-free immediately. Most remaining tariffs and quotas will be phased out over the first 10 years the agreement is in force.