Korea Herald | 8 December 2009
Seoul willing to lift ban on Canadian beef
Korea is wiling to lift its six-year-old ban on Canadian beef, President Lee Myung-bak sad yesterday after a summit with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Ottawa took Seoul to the World Trade Organization in July over the import ban imposed in May 2003 after bovine spongiform encephalopathy was found in a Canadian cow.
"Our principle is to import (Canadian beef)," Lee said in their joint news conference after the summit at Cheong Wa Dae.
"The issue will be resolved soon," as settlement efforts are made in two tracks of the WTO process and bilateral governmental negotiations, he added.
Harper arrived in Seoul on Sunday for a two-day visit focused on promoting bilateral economic ties and cooperation for next year’s Group of 20 summits to be hosted by the two countries.
Seoul is the last stop on Harper’s six-day Asian tour which took him to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Lee’s aides played down the significance of the president’s remark.
"There is no change in the government’s position that we won’t import Canadian beef if import terms are not met," said presidential spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye said.
Agricultural ministers from the two countries held a separate meeting to discuss the issue. Officials declined to elaborate on their discussion.
The president admitted that the beef import is a sensitive issue among Koreans. His decision to resume U.S. beef import in 2008 triggered more than two months of street protests.
"It was the sensitive nature of the matter among Koreans that the issue in now under the WTO process," he said.
Before the ban, Korea was Canada’s fourth-largest beef export market. Canada shipped 16,400 tones of beef valued at $37.4 million in 2002, according to the Seoul government.
Hong Kong announced on Sunday that it had dropped its six-year-old ban of Canadian beef.
During the summit, Lee and Harper agreed to move forward negotiations for a free trade agreement between the two countries, Cheong Wa Dae said.
"The two leaders recognized that an FTA will not only expand bilateral trade but also give a momentum to elevate overall relations to a higher level," it said.
The two countries have held 13 rounds of FTA talks since 2005 but have yet to finalize the deal.
"A Korea-Canada FTA will have a significant effect given the mutually complementary economic and trade structures between the two countries," Kim said.
An early conclusion of the deal between the G20 host countries will also send a strong message for free trade to the world, she added.
In his address to the National Assembly before the summit, the Canadian leader called for an early conclusion of the FTA. "We can be the model for bringing the economies of the East and the West together," he said.
The leaders also pledged to closely cooperate in preparing for next year’s Group of 20 summits in Toronto in June and in Seoul in November.
"President Lee and I had excellent discussions on global issues, such as the G-20 meetings next year," Harper said during the news conference.
Lee requested the Canadian government’s support for Korean companies advancing into the development of energy and resources in Canada, the presidential office said.
Earlier in the day, Harper visited the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas. About 26,000 Canadian soldiers fought for South Korea in the 1950-53 Korean War with 516 killed.
Lee also explained about his grand bargain proposal to denuclearize North Korea and Harper expressed his support for it.
"In terms of President Lee’s approach on this issue, seems to me it makes eminent sense. We have seen from our observations so far less than good faith from the part of North Korea," Harper said.
They also agreed to make efforts to achieve a successful result during the leaders’ summit on climate change in Copenhagen this month. Both will join the meeting on Dec. 17-18
Lee and Harper held their first summit on the sidelines of an expanded G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, in July and their second summit in New York during the U.N. General Assembly in September.
By Hwang Jang-jin