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President says he hopes to end ban on Canadian beef

Dec 08,2009
President Lee Myung-bak said yesterday that Korea in principle wants to lift a ban on Canadian beef, stressing that efforts are ongoing to resolve the sensitive issue.

Following a bilateral summit, Lee and Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper addressed the press at the Blue House yesterday. Asked about the tug of war on the beef import ban, Lee said, “The situation is heading toward a resolution, not toward a deadlock.”

“The two countries are discussing the matter, and we have set forth the principle that Korea will import [Canadian] beef,” Lee said, without saying when the ban will be lifted. “It is, however, a very sensitive issue for the Korean people.” Lee said the beef ban is currently being deliberated in the World Trade Organization, as well as separate bilateral dialogues. Harper also said he is aware of the sensitivity of the issue, noting that the two countries have been discussing the obstacles and he is optimistic.

Lee’s spokeswoman, Kim Eun-hye, later told reporters that “Lee was just speaking about the principle that the beef imports will resume when conditions are met.”

Before the summit, Korea and Canada’s agricultural ministers discussed the thorny matter. Agriculture Minister Chang Tae-pyong expressed regret yesterday over Ottawa’s decision to take Korea’s import ban to WTO. Chang told his Canadian counterpart that Korea did not want the matter to be taken to the WTO’s dispute settlement panel, which started proceedings in late August. Korea imposed an import ban on Canadian beef in 2003 after the nation reported its first case of mad cow disease. Canada, which received a “controlled risk” classification from the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health, has demanded Korea lift the ban. The beef issue has appeared to be one of the key issues for Harper’s Asian tour.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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