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South Korea FTA top priority for meat industry

By: | at 07:00 PM | International Trade  

The U.S. meat industry hopes a free-trade agreement with South Korea can be worked out when the leaders of the two countries meet next week because such a deal could boost meat exports, the U.S. Meat Export Federation said.

In a wide-ranging discussion, USMEF officials told reporters in a teleconference the trade deal, which has been in the works for three years, would boost bilateral trade between the two countries.

“The Korean FTA is the most important aspect, in our opinion, of this trip,” said Phil Seng, chief executive of USMEF, which works to develop overseas markets for U.S. beef, pork, and lamb.

He was referring to a two-day G-20 summit next week in Seoul, where President Barack Obama is expected to meet on the sidelines with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

A deal would increase trade between the two countries by $80 billion and make U.S. beef more affordable there as it would lower a 40 percent import duty, Seng said.

“This is very important at this point in time to our economy. We see the Korea FTA as extremely important as far as U.S. agriculture is concerned and as far as the interests of the whole United States,” he said.

Middle East Hungry for Beef The Middle East has become a strong market for U.S. meat with sales up sharply this year to Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, USMEF said.

Year-to-date beef exports through August more than doubled to Egypt at 47.12 million lbs, while UAE purchases were up 47.5 percent at 11.42 million lbs, and Saudi Arabia’s up 74 percent at 7.6 million lbs, USDA data shows.

Japan remains a strong buyer of U.S. beef, with year-to-date purchases up 21 percent at nearly 247 million lbs. That business is still down from 2003, when Japan sharply reduced purchases in response to the first case of mad cow disease in the United States late that year.

Russia has been a steady buyer of U.S. beef, while pork sales have increased. Pork sales were slow early in 2010 because of veterinary issues in Russia, USMEF said.

“When the situation was resolved and the (pork) plants became relisted, we have since been able to ship very good volumes,” John Brook, USMEF’s vice president for Europe, Russia and the Middle East, said of the pork. (Reuters)