Ag exports to Korea growing 7x faster than those to world at large

Ag exports to Korea growing 7x faster than those to world at large

Gains fostered by lifting of restrictions under U.S.-Korea trade agreement, now three years old

U.S. farm exports are growing about seven times faster to Korea than they are to the world at large, the U.S. Trade Representative's office said last week in observance of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement's third anniversary.

U.S. ag exports have benefited from the tariff cuts and lifting of other restrictions in the KORUS, USTR said. Farm exports to Korea grew by about 31.2% last year.

"After battling economic headwinds, our trade with Korea is expanding, American industries are gaining market-share across the range of sectors," U.S. Trade Ambassador Michael Froman said in a statement on the anniversary.

USTR Ambassador Froman discusses Iowa's corn crops with Kimberley Farm owners and staff in Maxwell, Iowa, August 2014. (USTR photo)

"Because we have made trade with Korea easier, farmers and ranchers are exporting 'Grown-in-America' cherries, beef, cheese, and other ag products at record levels."

Between 2011 and 2014, beef export value moved from about $686 million to $847 million; shelled almonds from $74 million to $204 million; fresh cheese $30 million to $199 million; and cherries from $40 million to $116 million.

The $847 million in exports of beef and beef products to Korea in 2014 marked an all-time record, growing 23.5% between 2011 and 2014, USTR said. Fresh cheese exports showed a 575% increase after the FTA.

Related: Korea, U.S. Strike Deal on Organic Equivalency

The Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement also has lowered import duties for U.S. pork, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation, with some products entering Korea duty-free and all frozen pork eligible for duty-free treatment by 2016.

Late last year, USMEF's Dan Halstrom, senior vice president for marketing and communications, said Korean confidence in the U.S. meat supply is high, but BSE concerns linger for some.

"One of the things that we're doing to combat this misperception as to the safety and quality of U.S. beef is to focus on the branded beef," Halstrom said in September. "We have everything from large guys promoting their top-choice brands to smaller members promoting American Wagyu brands."

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Ag exports to Korea growing 7x faster than those to world at large

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USTR said the KORUS agreement has improved regulatory transparency in Korea, benefiting trade.

Economic factors, too, have impacted the effects of KORUS, USTR said. One example is the drought of 2012, which stifled corn production and decreased U.S. exports of the commodity to Korea.

As the agreement matured, however, USTR said corn exports increased more than four-fold between 2013 and 2014, exceeding $1 billion last year.   

In his statement on the expansion, Froman said the KORUS is an example of success in free trade agreements as the U.S. works on both the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Related: Offal Meats as Good As Gold For U.S. Beef Market

"Our agreements are creating pathways for American products to be sold overseas and supporting more American jobs at home," he said. "We are looking to build on this success and further unlock new opportunities for Americans by expanding trade in the Asia-Pacific and Europe."

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