U.S. beef industry champions FTA

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U.S. beef industry champions FTA

The U.S. beef industry urged Washington not to change the free trade agreement with South Korea because it’s been so beneficial to it.

This is the first industry to make the call since the Office of the United States Trade Representative called for a Joint Committee meeting with its Korean counterpart to discuss revisions to the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (Korus) last month.

“Simply put, Korus created the ideal environment for the U.S. beef industry to thrive in South Korea,” the CEOs of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the North American Meat Institute and the U.S. Meat Export Federation wrote in a letter on Sunday.

“We would not support any changes in the terms of the Korus that would jeopardize either our market share or the significant investment that has been made in rebuilding Korean consumer confidence in the safety, quality, and consistency of U.S. beef.”

These organizations encouraged the Donald Trump administration to reconsider the North American Free Trade Agreement instead of totally withdrawing from it earlier this year.

The groups represent many rural American farmers, key supporters of Trump. The three U.S. beef associations represent the entire beef value chain, from ranchers to feedlot operators, meat packers and exporters, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said in a press release Sunday.

“Under Korus, the U.S. beef industry has seen an 82 percent increase in annual sales to South Korea, from $582 million in 2012 to $1.06 billion in 2016, making South Korea the second largest export market for U.S. beef,” the letter read.

“Many cuts like short ribs and chuck rolls receive a significant premium in South Korea over prices in the U.S. market. Korus established strong science-based trade measures and a schedule for the elimination of South Korea’s 40 percent tariff on U.S. beef-terms that have allowed the U.S. beef industry to be very competitive in South Korea.”

The letter added that implementing Korus before Australia implemented a free trade agreement with Korea gave U.S. beef a significant tariff advantage and that the United States is now the leading source of beef imports in Korea.

The industry representatives emphasized that continuing with the current agreement deal will help the country’s economy as well.

“Last year, we sold $6.3 billion of U.S. beef to foreign consumers, with exports to South Korea accounting for 17 percent of the total,” they said. “With your help and leadership, we look forward to building on our success in export markets, including South Korea, and continuing to stimulate economic growth in rural America.”

A source in Washington, D.C. said the letter presented a strong stance by the U.S. agricultural industry, which worries about the U.S. government’s efforts on behalf of the manufacturing sector.

“A voice coming from Americans, not from Korea, will have a big impact on the Trump administration,” the source added.

BY KIM HYUN-KI, KIM YOUNG-NAM [kim.youngnam@joongang.co.kr]

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