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Korea trade pact with New Zealand won’t be threat

Oct 04,2006
New Zealand is ready to begin a free trade agreement with Korea to export more of its lamb and dairy products, and the trade pact is not likely to threaten the livelihood of Korean farmers, said Michael Cullen, deputy prime minister and the minister of finance of New Zealand.
“There are very few areas where New Zealand producers are threats to Korean farmers because we produce different things,” Mr. Cullen said in an interview with the JoongAng Daily this week. Mr. Cullen visited Korea Oct. 1-3 to meet Korean president Roh Moo-hyun and other government officials to discuss education exchange and trade issues. Mr. Cullen said the New Zealand government is anxious to begin trade negotiation with Korea, which is New Zealand’s seventh-largest trading partner. Mr. Cullen also tried to quiet possible opposition from Korean farmers, stressing that New Zealand exports have “never” pushed local producers in foreign markets out of business.
“The main agricultural products in New Zealand are dairy products and lambs, not rice, hot peppers or garlic, which raise sensitivity for Korea,” he said. “Even in Europe, which is our biggest market, we account for under 5 percent of the total dairy produce market there, and we are not big enough to be a threat.”
New Zealand sells beef, milk and and logs to Korea. Likewise, Korea is the largest destination for New Zealand logs and its second-largest importer of beef. Although New Zealand lambs may not overstep the territory of local farmers, its beef exports have expanded in Korean markets recently.
Since Korea banned U.S. beef imports in the wake of a case of mad cow disease in the United States in 2003, New Zealand beef market share in Korea has tripled from 8.6 percent in 2003 to 27.3 percent last year. Growth of New Zealand beef imports may soon face stiffer competition since Korea is expected to resume U.S. beef imports. Seoul’s negotiations with Canada to strike a free trade agreement may intensify concern by New Zealand trade officials.
“We are worried about countries like Chile and Canada, that with trade agreements their products will get preferential entry, while we face problems having to divert more of our products to other markets,” Mr. Cullen said.
Chile signed a free trade agreement with Korea in 2001.
Mr. Cullen also serves as the minister for tertiary education. He wants to strengthen educational ties by sending an “education counselor” to Seoul in 2007.
New Zealand is a popular destinations for Korean parents eager for their children to learn English or to escape the stressful Korean education system. More than 20,000 Korean students now fly to New Zealand each year.
“We are keen to increase students coming from Korea,” Mr. Cullen said.
“And we will explore sending more New Zealand students to Korea, which has excellent engineering and business schools,” he said.


by Jung Ha-won


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