What’s the beef?The U.S. beef import saga has become the biggest obstacle to legislative approval of a free trade agreement between Korea and the United States.
Carlos Gutierrez, the U.S. secretary of commerce, said U.S. Congress leaders will not support a free trade agreement with Korea if we do not fully open our beef market.
In other words, as long as Korea keeps the door to the beef market shut tight, the U.S. government has no reason to persuade Congress to approve the free trade deal.
Otherwise, Washington has no other objection to approving the deal ― as long as the beef import issue is resolved.
So, if the ban is lifted, the FTA gets approved.
We believe there are two clear reasons why we should open our doors to U.S. beef.
First, there is no basis for banning U.S. beef imports on hygienic grounds.
The World Organization for Animal Health last year classified the United States as a controlled-risk country for mad cow disease and advised Korea to import U.S. beef.
The risk of mad cow disease was the reason for banning U.S. beef imports in the first place.
If the organization says there is no such risk, it is safe to eat U.S. beef.
Whether the meat is boneless or not, which has been part of the controversy, is also irrelevant in light of the organization’s declaration.
The second reason is U.S. beef imports will benefit Korean consumers.
Korean consumers welcomed the brief resumption of imports last year.
The reason is clear.
Consumers had more choice and people on low incomes could eat quality beef at lower prices.
Korean consumers have a right to choice, and U.S. beef imports proved popular.
As long as there are no hygiene problems ― and the World Organization for Animal Health suggests there aren’t ― the government must not deprive consumers of their right to choose.
Given these two reasons, and the fact that the United States has set the resumption of beef imports as a precondition for the legislative approval of the free trade agreement, Korea has no grounds for continuing its opposition.
In addition, the Korean government must soon resume negotiations on technology with the United States.
These talks have been in stalemate while the beef issue is under discussion.