With the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement pending, Ranking House Agriculture Committee Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has some concerns as to whether the agreement would fully reopen the Korean market to U.S. beef.
"I continue to worry about the beef access given some of the unjust sanitary and phytosanitary restrictors that keep popping up all of the time," Peterson said.
During the House Ag Committee hearing on free trade agreements Thursday, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk explained what actions are being taken to assure the deal with South Korea supports full U.S. beef trade.
"We will request consultations with Korea under the 2008 beef protocol to discuss the full implementation and application of that agreement after the FTA goes into effect," Kirk said.
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says the benefit of reopening South Korea to full beef trade is the potential ripple effect of other Asian markets being reopened, such as China and Japan. He says the Korean agreement provides a format that could be used as a prototype for agreements with both of those countries.
Vilsack says anytime a free trade agreement is approved and implemented and people see benefits it creates momentum, it creates excitement, it creates enthusiasm for expansion and that it is an opportunity for the U.S. to redouble their efforts. He says they have been very aggressive in China and Japan and he thinks with a little more work and a little more effort the U.S. can get more progress there.
"The Korea agreement is a trade opportunity we cannot afford to pass up, worth an expected $1.9 billion annually to ag producers," Vilsack said. "Sixty percent of the items that we currently trade to Korea will be duty free immediately, including corn, soybeans for crush, cotton, cherries, and orange and grape juice. Other commodities, such as meat, poultry and dairy, will see tariffs and duties reduced over a period of time, creating tremendous opportunity for us to grow our export opportunities."
Vilsack says the U.S. has an opportunity by approving the FTA with South Korea to show China and Japan that the agreement works and to start a discussion of the possibilities of FTAs with those two countries.