Thirty-one U.S. senators have requested Korean President Roh Moo-hyun personally seek to resolve his countryâ€™s prolonged embargo against American beef. The text of the August 4th letter written by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Ranking Democrat Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, states further delays could potentially jeopardize a future U.S.-Korea free trade agreement.
Seven months have passed since health officials agreed on initial conditions to resume trade. The senators write that restoration of beef trade prior to the conclusion of talks scheduled for the end of this year is "essential to making meaningful progress and addressing Congressional reservations about a possible free trade agreement. The urgency of resuming trade is heightened now that other Asian nations are open to U.S. beef exports."
Beef industry groups have informed Congress they oppose a free trade agreement with Korea unless and until beef exports are resumed. The initial agreement only allowed boneless beef. Many groups pushed for bone-in beef for young cattle because of the lucrative short ribs market the U.S. enjoyed before the first case of BSE.
"This ongoing irritant in our trade relationship will hinder the ability of our trade negotiators to conclude any agreement with your country that would survive Congressional scrutiny," the senators go on to write.