Capital Press | 24 November 2010
Farm groups renew call for S. Korea trade pact
Farm Bureau says deal could increase agricultural trade by $1.8 billion
By TIM HEARDEN
Farm groups are renewing their call for a quick resolution to South Korea trade talks after the U.S. failed to meet a self-imposed deadline earlier this month.
The Obama administration had hoped to reach a free-trade deal with the Asian nation in time for this month’s G20 summit. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on national television last weekend that the two countries are still negotiating.
The fact that talks are ongoing pleases the American Farm Bureau Federation, which says a pact could increase U.S. agricultural trade by $1.8 billion annually.
Resolving outstanding beef and automobile issues "is critical to moving forward with the U.S.-Korea bilateral agreement that has been stalled for several years," AFBF president Bob Stallman said in a statement.
But the National Pork Producers Council laments that the agreement that was reached on June 30, 2007, has not yet been ratified. The pact must be approved by the Senate as well as the South Korean National Assembly.
"Obviously we are hopeful they will get something done before the end of the year," said NPPC spokesman Dave Warner, adding he’d like to see an agreement sent to Capitol Hill early in the new Congress.
"This agreement is too important for both sides, so we need to get it done," he said.
The NPPC cites a study by Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes that asserts by the end of the free trade agreement’s 10-year phase-in period total U.S. pork exports to South Korea would be almost 600,000 metric tons.
That represents nearly twice the current U.S. export level to Japan, now the top value market for the U.S. pork industry.
The Korea FTA would lift live hog prices by $10 per animal and generate an additional $687 million in U.S. pork exports, the NPPC argues.
The deal would benefit the U.S. beef industry, too, notes the U.S. Meat Export Federation. The elimination of South Korea’s import duties on beef would boost exports to that country, which have already exceeded last year’s total by 175 percent, the USMEF contends.
"The long and short of it is we were hopeful there would be an agreement," USMEF spokesman Jim Herlihy said, "and it’s important for U.S. producers to be able to begin realizing the benefit of that agreement in terms of tariff reductions."
The stalled U.S.-Korea deal comes as South Korea has inked a free trade pact with the European Union and is set for a trade summit with Japan on Dec. 18, according to Asian news reports.
In all, South Korea is negotiating 13 different trade deals that include about 50 countries in addition to the U.S. deal, Warner said.
The U.S. remains the No. 1 exporter to South Korea "but other countries are gaining market share," said Warner, adding that the U.S. could eventually be pushed out of the Korean market without a deal.