The U.S. Trade Representative was asked over the weekend to initiate new discussions with South Korea to resolve outstanding trade issues prior to the President's visit to the country for the next G-20 meeting in November. At the direction of the Obama Administration, USTR will work to move trade forward. In a release from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the USTR says "after the meeting and those issues successfully resolve" the President plans to submit the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement to Congress.
Commenting in an official statement from NCBA, President Steve Foglesong says: "We're extremely encouraged that the Adminstratino is making it clear to Congress that it's time to finally move forward on this critical trade deal." He notes the KORUS FTA could be "one of the most significant bilateral agreements in our history."
If implemented, that FTA would cut Korea's current tariff from 40% to zero over 15 years. This would provide $15 million in new tariff benefits to U.S. beef producers in the first year alone, with about $325 million in tariff reductions annually once fully implemented.
In 2003, before the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in a single cow, Korea bought $815 million in beef, beef variety meats and processed beef products. If KORUS enters into force, NCBA says Korea could eventually be a $1 billion market for U.S. beef producers.
And the world isn't standing still. Other countries are already entering into agreements with Korea including Australia. "If Australia were to successfully ratify a similar bilateral trade agreement with Korea a year before we do, it would give the Austrlaians a 2.67% tariff advantage over U.S. beef for the next 15 years," Foglesong notes.
Foglesong points to the recent agreement allowing China to resume imports of Canadian beef. "The China-Canada beef deal is evidence of the United States' lack of engagement on trade issues over the past six years," Foglesong says. "There's no reason why American beef producers shouldn't have the same access to China that Canadians now have."
NCBA is also calling on Congress to move forward on FTAs already under consideration including Colombia and Panama.