[EDITORIALS]A bone by any other nameAfter lifting a ban on U.S. beef, Korea rejected two shipments after it found bone fragments in them. Then, Washington began to place pressure on Seoul, with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johannson saying that Korea’s ban on U.S. beef would make it difficult for the two countries to reach an agreement with another round of free trade talks.
The country’s deputy secretary of agriculture also said Korea was applying the term “boneless meat” too rigorously and said Washington would persuade Seoul to accepting U.S. beef shipments even if it discovers bone fragments in them sometimes. The U.S. legislators and beef farmers are criticizing Korea for its protectionism. They are saying the beef issue will be an obstacle to agreement during the fifth round of free trade talks between the two countries in Big Sky, Montana.
But it is not understandable for the United States to link the beef issue and negotiations on the free trade pact. The beef issue is not on the agenda of free trade talks between the two countries. The United States should not attempt to include trade problems from outside the agenda with those on the agenda.
In addition, it was an agreement between Korea and the United States that Korea would resume imports of “only boneless beef.”
Even if a bone fragment is miniscule, that does not guarantee it will never cause md cow disease. Taiwan and Hong Kong had already sent back shipments of U.S. beef because of bone fragments.
Washington seems to be complaining that the Korean government is applying the terms of the beef agreement too rigorously. But if Seoul begins to allow exemptions, confusion will increase. If the United States were in the position of Korea, would the country flexibly apply the terms and conditions and accept beef shipments with bone fragments?
The United States signed the agreement and it should not say now that it is physically impossible to prevent small bone fragments from being included in the beef shipments. We hope it will respect the contents of that agreement.
Korea should not take a passive attitude on the beef issue for the sake of free trade talks. If the bone fragments were that minor matters, as the U.S. side insists, it can be solved through separate negotiations.
It is rational to treat an issue directly related to people’s health rigorously and conservatively.