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Draft deal set up for Canadian beef access to Korea

Canada and South Korea now have a framework in place for an agreement to reopen Korean ports to Canadian beef from animals under 30 months of age.

Federal officials on Monday announced the two countries have “resolved technical issues” on lifting Korea’s beef ban and “will continue to collaborate until (a) commercially viable agreement is fully implemented.”

South Korea will begin its domestic process of submitting proposed import health requirements — a process which includes public consultations and legislative approval — on Tuesday (June 28), the Canadian government said.

Canada has pledged it will ask for a suspension of its 2009 challenge of South Korea’s beef ban at the World Trade Organization (WTO) once the Korean government gets that domestic process underway.

Canadian and South Korean officials “will continue to work closely to ensure the remaining elements of the process are completed,” the government said.

Formerly Canada’s fourth biggest beef export market, South Korea is now the last key Asian market still imposing a trade ban on Canadian beef, dating back to Canada’s discovery of its first domestic case of BSE in an Alberta cow in May 2003.

The Canadian Meat Council (CMC), which represents the processing sector, said in a separate release that Monday’s agreement “provides the foundation for resumption of full market access” for beef and beef products in the Korean market.

The Canadian Beef Export Federation (CBEF) has estimated the agreement could mean more than $30 million for Canadian producers by 2015, the government noted.

“Moving closer”

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz noted Monday he has visited South Korea twice to push for Seoul to remove its ban, and reiterated on those trips that Canada has a “controlled risk” status for BSE from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) allowing safe trade of beef.

“We are extremely pleased that a proposed, science-based agreement has been reached with South Korea that recognizes Canadian beef is safe, and that access to this market is finally moving closer to being restored,” Canadian Cattlemen’s Association president Travis Toews said in a separate release.

“South Korea is a lucrative market for high-quality safe Canadian beef and demand there helps to optimize the value of each animal,” said Toews, who farms at Beaverlodge, Alta.

With an estimated 48 million inhabitants and a GDP of over $1 trillion, Korea is considered the largest of the four “Asian tigers” alongside Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, the CMC said.

Canada’s soon-to-be-suspended case against South Korea’s beef ban at the WTO was originally expected to lead to a ruling from the WTO Dispute Settlement Body by April 2011.

The dispute panel said in April it would need more time due to “the complexity of the dispute and the voluminous materials to be examined” and expected to issue its final report by the end of August at the latest.

Canada had filed its WTO challenge following “numerous attempts” to negotiate beef access to South Korea, but nevertheless continued to negotiate a possible bilateral settlement even though it was “confident” in its WTO case, the government said Monday.

FTA renewal

An agreement with Korea to resume trade in beef is not just good for Canada’s beef industry, Entz said. “The agreement also brings hope of renewed free trade agreement (FTA) talks between Canada and Korea to our Canadian pork industry that exported $100 million worth of pork to South Korea in 2010 and $125 million in 2009.”

Further delays on those talks, he said, could “seriously affect the competitiveness of the meat industry and all other Canadian sectors exporting to Korea.”

“If Canada is lagging behind the U.S. and the (European Union) in the implementation of the tariff reduction schedules, the negative impact on Canadian exports will carry throughout the tariff reduction period,” Entz said.

“Canada will lose its status as a competitive supplier to South Korea for the next decade due to this tariff gap, so it is crucial to resume and finalize the FTA as soon as possible. Now that our beef access issues are resolved we can move forward swiftly with more negotiations.”

An FTA with South Korea, he said, would be “the most crucial potential free trade agreement that can be completed for the Canadian meat sector.”

COPA Medallion COPA finalist in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
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