Trouble Brewing Over US/Korean Beef Deal

SOUTH KOREA - Opposition parties in South Korea have attacked the government's latest deal over US beef imports. The move signals that parliamentary approval of the Free Trade Agreement will not be as straightforward as many may have expected.
calendar icon 23 April 2008
clock icon 2 minute read

Labeling the beef agreement an "unconditional concession" to the United States, opposition parties are moving to fend off the early ratification of the free trade deal, which has been pending in the respective legislatures of the two countries since September last year, reports the Hankyoreh.

President Lee Myung-bak's conservative party has been pushing to ratify the deal in the one-month extraordinary parliamentary session that opens Thursday. But liberal parties oppose the move, citing the need for sufficient scrutiny.

South Korea agreed Friday to open its market to U.S. beef, including bone-in-beef cuts from cattle of any age, except for select parts deemed to have a higher risk of transmitting mad cow disease. If the deal takes effect, it will be the first time in almost five years that Seoul has allowed the importation of bone-in-beef cuts from cattle that are more than 30 months old.

U.S. state farm legislators have said they would not approve the deal unless Korea fully opens up its beef market to Washington, although beef is not on the FTA agenda.

The move has unnerved cattle ranchers here, as they are now forced to compete with American beef. Following the Friday agreement, the value of homegrown beef depreciated by almost 10 percent on the expectation that imports of American meat will resume in May.

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