Korean officials last week announced measures that will allow the continued stream of commerce for U.S. organic processed products for the next six months, the U.S. Organic Trade Association said.
While the Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs announced that the Korean Environment-Friendly Organic Regulations for processed products were to be implemented as scheduled as of Jan. 1, 2014, it also outlined a plan for a six-month education period to allow business to adapt and transition to the new regulations.
This would mean the regulations, although implemented and in place during the education period, would not be fully enforced until July 1, 2014.
As a result, the six-month period will allow U.S. and Korean negotiators to conduct peer review audits and begin equivalency negotiations while facilitating trade through June 30, 2014.
"On behalf of the U.S. organic sector, the Organic Trade Association thanks the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative for working with Korean officials to make this happen," said Laura Batcha, OTA's executive vice president. "Korea is a critical market for U.S. exports of organic products, and it is vital for the health and growth of the U.S. organic industry that trade not be disrupted to the region."
OTA applauded the concerted effort by U.S. agency officials and Senators as well as industry members to advocate for keeping the Korean market open to U.S. organic exports.
In mid-December, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and 12 other U.S. Senators sent a letter to Korean Ambassador Ahn Ho-Young urging that Korea keep its market open to products certified organic to the USDA National Organic Program standard, pending the negotiation of an equivalency agreement.
OTA subsequently hosted a fly-in of its members to Washington, D.C., Dec. 16-17 to advocate for continued access to the Korean organic market. During the fly-in, OTA members visited and held meetings with Ambassador Isi Siddiqui at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Office of USDA's Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Darci Vetter.
"The U.S –Korea Trade Agreement lays out a framework to address agriculture trade barriers as they arise. Members of OTA have called on the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and USDA to work with Korean officials to find an immediate solution in the spirit of this agreement," Batcha said, adding that the plan outlined by Korean officials is a first step in the process.
Legislators signing on to the initial December letter in addition to Feinstein included Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Max Baucus, D-Mont., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Al Franken, D-Minn., Bob Casey, D-Penn., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.