U.S. to raise beef issue after Korea FTA's implementation: USTR

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U.S. to raise beef issue after Korea FTA's implementation: USTR

The Obama administration said Wednesday it will ask to consult with South Korea on possible wider access to the South Korean beef market once the pending free-trade deal with South Korea takes effect.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk made the pledge in a letter to Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which is to deliberate the Korea FTA before a full Senate vote.

South Korea and the U.S. signed a protocol in 2008 to ban shipments of beef from cattle over 30 months old until consumer confidence is restored in South Korea, due to fears of mad cow disease which prompted weeks of street rallies against U.S. beef in Seoul.

"Once the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement (KORUS) enters into force, and in accordance with Article 25 of the Protocol, the United States will request consultations with Korea with regard to the full application of the Protocol, recognizing that KORUS and the Protocol are separate agreements," Kirk said in the letter. "Pursuant of Article 25 of the Protocol, those consultations shall be held within seven days of the consultation request."

Baucus, who has threatened not to endorse the Korea FTA without further progress on the beef issue, welcomed Kirk's move. Montana is said to be the biggest source of beef from older cattle.

"Our long fight for strong, science-based trade rules around the world to open foreign markets for American ranchers, and keep them open, took big steps forward today," he said in a statement. "Korea's age restriction on U.S. beef is both scientifically unjustified and inconsistent with international standards."

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has also threatened to vote against the deal unless South Korea makes new concessions such as "accelerated reductions in the tariffs on U.S. beef until it agrees to accept the full range of U.S. beef exports." He also serves on the Finance Committee.

Beef was not discussed in December when Seoul and Washington produced a supplemental agreement to address U.S. concerns over lopsided auto trade, the biggest hurdle to congressional approval of the Korea FTA, signed in 2007 under the Bush administration.

The revised deal calls for a delayed phase-out of auto tariffs in return for Washington's concessions on pork and medicine.
The U.S. beef industry supports the FTA. U.S. beef shipments to South Korea more than doubled to US$518 million last year from $216 million a year earlier.

South Korea was the second biggest U.S. beef market, worth $815 million, in 2003 when Seoul banned imports after a few cases of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, surfaced in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, meanwhile, said it has awarded an additional $1 million of FY2011 Market Access Program funds to the U.S. Meat Export Federation to promote beef in South Korea. USMEF said it has created a five-year, $10 million initiative to promote U.S. beef in Korea.

Kirk's office also said that it will begin technical consultations with Congress Thursday ahead of the submission of the pending free-trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.

"Today, the administration has indicated its readiness to begin technical discussions Thursday morning with key congressional staff on the draft implementing bills and draft statements of administrative action for the pending trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama," a USTR statement said.

The announcement comes after Kirk sent a letter earlier in the day to members of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees indicating that "Colombia has taken the necessary steps, consistent with the April 22 milestones outlined in the action plan, to move to the next stage in the process."

Washington reached a new deal with Bogota last month on labor rights, which have served as a stumbling block to congressional approval of the trade agreement since its signing in 2007.

An agreement with Panama took effect last month, allowing exchanges of tax information to prevent tax evasion in the Latin American state, often criticized for serving as a tax haven.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) welcomed the administration's move.

"The administration has indicated it is ready to meet our request to advance the three pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea," he said in a statement. "Now it's time we move to expand market access for American-made goods in all three of these nations. I look forward to working with the administration to pass these trade agreements in tandem with one another, as well as engaging in a broader discussion about America's trade and work force policies."

The Obama administration has not yet submitted the Korea FTA to Congress in the face of some leading Republicans who want to combine deliberation of the Korea deal with the Colombia and Panama agreements.

A senior administration official said in a conference call that the Obama administration has not determined the schedule for the official presentation of the Korea and two other deals, but added, "Each agreement is a separate agreement. They stand on their own two feet. And we look forward to each one being voted on."

"On the sequencing, timing and packaging discussion, all I would say is we are ready to start work on the staff walk-throughs," the official said, asking anonymity. "We'll take each agreement on its own merits and figure out when to submit them each under trade promotion authority. And we'll be working with Congress to see how soon it's appropriate for each of them to be passed."

The Korea FTA, the biggest trade deal for the U.S. since the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, was negotiated under the Trade Promotion Authority Act of 2002, which requires Congress to vote yes or no without amendments within 90 days of the deal's submission
Kirk last month called on Congress to move immediately to ratify the Korea pact, saying the Colombia and Panama deals will be ready "in a matter of weeks."

He has expressed hope that Congress will begin deliberating the Korea FTA early this month after the Easter recess and approve the deal "this spring" so as not to lag behind the European Union, which has ratified a similar deal with Seoul that is set to take effect July 1. The South Korean National Assembly also approved the deal with the EU earlier in the day.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said the Korea FTA will support more than 70,000 jobs and help double U.S. exports within five years as the world's biggest economy struggles to escape the recession that began in late 2008, the worst in decades.

The International Trade Commission has estimated that the Korea FTA would annually add $10 billion to $11 billion to the U.S. GDP and roughly $10 billion in U.S. exports to Korea. [Yonhap]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

미, 한·미 FTA 비준 조건으로 쇠고기 개방 요청 않기로

USTR 대표 “협정 발효 후 협의”
오늘부터 의회와 비준 실무협상

미국 오바마 행정부는 한·미 자유무역협정(FTA)이 양국 의회에서 비준 절차를 거쳐 정식 발효된 이후 한국 측에 쇠고기 시장의 추가 개방을 위한 협의를 요청키로 했다.

론 커크(Ron Kirk) 무역대표부(USTR) 대표는 4일(현지시간) 상원 재무위원회 맥스 보커스(민주당·몬태나주) 위원장에게 서한을 보내 “한·미FTA가 발효된 이후 한국 쇠고기 시장의 수입 위생 조건에 관한 협의를 요청하겠다”고 전했다.

USTR의 이러한 입장은 한국 쇠고기 시장의 추가 개방을 위한 양국 간 협의에 착수하는 문제를 한·미FTA 비준의 전제조건으로 삼지 않겠다는 뜻을 밝힌 것으로 해석된다. 보커스 위원장은 그동안 이와는 정반대 입장이었다. 한·미FTA 비준에 앞서 한국 쇠고기 시장의 추가 개방을 위한 보장이 이뤄지지 않을 경우 한·미FTA 비준에 동의할 수 없다고 주장해왔다.

그러나 최근 보커스 위원장은 미 행정부와의 협의를 통해 기존 입장에서 한 발 물러나 선(先) 한·미 FTA 비준에 동의한 것으로 전해졌다. USTR는 또 한·미FTA와 미·콜롬비아 FTA, 미·파나마FTA 등 3개 FTA의 비준을 위해 5일부터 의회 측과 실무협상에 착수키로 했다고 밝혔다.

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