[LETTERS to the editor]Standards in free trade

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[LETTERS to the editor]Standards in free trade

It was with some interest that I read Professor Kim Sun-taek’s recent column, “Beefy Questions” (June 4). Although in the realm of international trade it may seem natural for Korea to decide upon safety standards for imports and demand that exporters meet them, under a free trade regime things get somewhat more complicated.

Surely under those arrangements there must be equivalent safety standards in both countries so that one trading partner does not use its own regulatory powers to gain an advantage.

One can imagine the furor that would erupt here if, for example, the United States demanded stricter safety or emission standards for imported Korean cars than it demands of its own domestically produced vehicles.

Clearly the solution to the current hysteria over U.S. beef is to simply demand the same testing and hygiene standards for U.S. beef that domestic Korean beef is subject to.

And what exactly are those standards in Korea? It seems we don’t really know, as Korean regulatory agencies have thus far declined to produce sufficient documentation to allow the World Organization for Animal Health to assess the risks from eating Korean beef.

Recent news reports suggest that those standards may not be much different than those currently in place in America and that the same agricultural practices that the anti-U.S. beef groups object to are also employed here. Notwithstanding this, Koreans continue to consume Korean beef without objection and without the slightest clue about the safety of doing so.

Therein lies the problem. But surely, if Korea is truly interested in free trade it cannot demand more of its American counterparts than it does of its own domestic meat producers. And if it isn’t interested in free trade it ought to just say so, scrap the free trade agreement with the U.S. and accept the economic consequences.

Wayne Richard, Ilsan, Gyeonggi

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