[EDITORIALS]A major beefThe U.S. government has asked our government to discuss the quarantine process for imported beef. Thus, next month, a consultative meeting regarding the import of U.S. beef between the two sides is expected to take place.
Two months ago, the import of U.S. beef was resumed, but the government has discovered bone fragments and rejected the import of the entire shipment. That was because both sides agreed at the beginning of the year that Korea would import only boneless U.S. beef.
Until now, all actions taken were in accordance with the agreement. Nevertheless, one must ask whether sending a whole shipment back because a box in the shipment has yielded a tiny bone fragment the size of a match is in line with common sense.
Now what? Since the United States wants to discuss the method of the quarantine procedure, the issue cannot be avoided anymore. The United States is expected to clarify its standards for bone fragments and ask for more accommodating quarantine methods. First we should listen to what they have to say and try to find some common ground.
There is no doubt that the health of the Korean people is the foremost issue. Nevertheless, if there are vague clauses in the import regulations, they have to be fixed; if there are illogical parts that are not in line with international standards, we have to fix them as well. First, the government has to judge whether one bone fragment in a shipment really poses a danger or whether a complete survey is not out of line.
Already, lawmakers are vowing that there should be no compromise, tackling the issue in an emotional manner. The Agriculture Ministry is also saying that changing the import conditions that it changed only two months ago is premature. There are also movements said to be using the incident to fuel anti-U.S. sentiment. The United States is our steadfast ally and is also our largest trading partner, with whom free trade agreement negotiations are taking place. There is nothing to gain from giving the United States a hard time over the beef import issue. Let’s hope that the issue can be resolved in a way that is in accord with common sense and understood by both sides.
The United States should not link the issue with the free trade talks and address it emotionally, arguing that it cannot trust the inspection results. Both nations need to resolve the issue wisely so the health of the people is protected and the free trade talks are not threatened.