After 10 months of haggling, trade representatives from the United States and South Korea reached an agreement in Seoul Monday. Congress and the South Korean legislation must now ratify the deal.
Agricultural issues had been a major sticking point in free trade negotiations between the countries. South Korea succeeded in excluding its highly protected rice market from the deal and agreed to phase out its 40% tariff on U.S. beef over the next 15 years.
"In the agricultural sector, you're going to see substantial new market access for America's agricultural producers in a fast growing, wealthy market ... it's a great deal for America's farmers and ranchers as well," Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Karan Bhatia told reporters.
The two countries also agreed to open each other's auto markets, and the U.S. surprisingly agreed to give preference to South Korean product made in an industrial park in North Korea - under certain conditions connected to ending North Korea's nuclear program.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association said in a statement that the group "is withholding support for the U.S.-South Korea FTA until commercially viable beef trade is occurring based on the internationally recognized guidelines established by the World Organization for Animal Health.
"The next 90 days are critical, and NCBA will continue to closely monitor the situation over this time period. As soon as we see U.S. beef trade based upon OIE guidelines occurring between the United States and Korea, NCBA will support the U.S.-South Korea FTA and the market access terms negotiated in this agreement. If that does not occur, NCBA and our cattle producer-members will oppose this FTA."