The United States and South Korea may be ready to sit down at the bargaining table again to discuss beef trade. Those talks, according to the Associated Press, could occur as early as next week.
Quoting an anonymous source, the story notes that talks could be scheduled as early as Jan. 9.
South Korea banned U.S. beef imports in 2003 after discover of the first U.S. case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. So far the South Koreans haven't been willing to discuss reopening its doors to U.S. beef noting its consumers are worried about BSE and imported beef.
However, a ministry advisory by the South Korean government issued in December showed that U.S. beef could be considered safe provided tougher inspection measure were taken.
Japan's ban on U.S. beef imports ended in January after two years of negotiations and the creation of a new system of tracking animal age.
South Korea had been the third-largest market for U.S. beef products before its 2003 ban. In 2002, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation, the country imported more than 200,000 tons of U.S. beef worth more than $600 million.
The South Koreans aren't going without beef, having turned to Australia and New Zealand to fill the gap left by the government's ban on U.S. products.