News Date: 04/27/2008

The United States and South Korea announced an agreement on April 18 to fully reopen South Korea's market to all U.S. beef and beef products consistent with international standards and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) guidelines. The news was welcomed as long overdue by USDA, farm-state lawmakers, and agricultural organizations.

South Korea closed its market to U.S. beef and beef products after a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was discovered in the United States in December 2003. Prior to this time, South Korea was the third-largest export market for U.S. beef and beef products with annual sales of $815 million in 2003. The new protocol, which will take effect in mid-May, defines conditions for importation of U.S. beef to South Korea and provides for a full reopening of the market. It is fully consistent with OIE guidelines and will permit all U.S. beef and beef products from cattle of all ages to be exported to Korea, including removal of Specified Risk Materials (SRMs), as defined by the OIE and inspection protocols to guarantee commercial viability for U.S. industry.

Once the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) is ratified and implemented and the current 40 percent tariff on U.S. beef is fully lifted, the FTA is expected to generate annual tariff savings of approximately $500 million a year for U.S beef exporters based on 2003 trade volumes alone. In addition, KORUS will put U.S. beef in a preferential competitive position relative to third country beef exports to South Korea. (Contact: Charlie Ingram)