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U.S. official to Korea: Open wide for beef

Oct 29,2007
The top U.S. agricultural negotiator urged Korea to open its market to “all types of American beef,” Korean officials said yesterday.
Korea agreed in 2005 to partially lift a three-year import ban on U.S. beef by allowing in only boneless meat. Bone-in meat and intestinal parts are known to have a higher risk of spreading the brain-wasting animal disease. The discovery of a case of mad cow disease at a U.S. ranch prompted the initial ban in 2003.
As part of its agreement with Washington earlier this year, Korea has been studying whether it is possible to expand imports from the U.S. Before the initial ban, Korea was Washington’s third-largest beef market in the world, with annual purchases reaching $850 million.
U.S. Trade Representative Chief Agricultural Negotiator Richard Crowder delivered the message to Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon during his three-day visit here, a Korean ministry statement said.
“Crowder emphasized the importance of beef and urged Korea to import all ages and parts of U.S. beef under the OIE ruling,” the statement said, referring to a ruling this May by the World Organization for Animal Health that states the U.S. can export beef irrespective of mad cow disease.
In response, Kim reiterated the two sides would resolve the issue through “technical consultation.”
Crowder’s visit was part of his tour in support of beef sales in Asia, including China, Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong, the statement said.
Officials at the Korean ministry weren’t immediately available for comment.
Crowder’s visit came at a sensitive time as Korea and the U.S. ended their latest negotiations, which concluded that Korea may be forced to expand imports of American beef.
Scientists say mad cow disease, a k a bovine spongiform encephalopathy, spreads when farmers feed recycled meat and bones from infected animals to live cattle. It is thought to cause the human variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which can cause fatal illnesses such as memory loss and dementia.
American trade officials have said the beef import is highly important for the U.S. government to win congressional approval for a free trade agreement with Korea.
Korea and the U.S. signed the trade pact, billed as the biggest such deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, in June after nearly a year of sometimes acrimonious negotiations. The agreement needs to be approved by the Korean National Assembly and the U.S. Congress to become effective.

Yonhap


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