At a press briefing with South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak at Camp David on April 19, President Bush announced that Korea will reopen its market for U.S. beef imports, which has been a major sticking point in moving the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement forward.
At the Saturday briefing featuring a range of critical issues discussed by the presidents of the two countries, President Bush gave prominent mention of Korea’s resumption of U.S. beef imports after the country had banned U.S. beef after detection of a case of BSE in Washington State in December 2003:
As a former CEO, President Lee understands the importance of trade. First of all, I want to thank you, Mr. President, and I appreciate your decision to reopen the Korean market to American beef — consistent with international standards. This is good news for Korean consumers and it’s good news for American beef producers.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s website posted a fact sheet giving background information on the beef issue and noted that before the closing of the Korean market, it was the “third largest — and growing — export market for U.S. beef and beef products with annual sales of $815 million in 2003.” Under the agreement, Korea will judge its beef imports according to international standards based on science.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture also lauded the beef agreement:
Today’s announcement that South Korea has fully complied with international trade standards regarding beef and beef products is great news for America’s ranchers and beef industry. By allowing complete market access for U.S. beef and beef products from cattle of all ages, South Korea has made a decision that is based on science and in line with international guidelines. As a result of a constructive and steady dialogue, Korean consumers will again have access to safe, affordable, high-quality beef at a time when global commodity prices are tightening.
The beef controversy has been a major impediment holding up Congressional consideration of the important FTA with one of the U.S.’s major trading partners. See CEI’s recent Issue Analysis on the U.S.-Korea FTA.