Bush administration notes beef with pending U.S.-Korea FTA
The Bush administration warned South Korean proponents of the pending free trade agreement with the United States that the Asian country must fully reopen its market to U.S. beef in order for many senior congressional lawmakers to approve ratification of the agreement.
“U.S. beef is safe,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez told the Korea Economic Institute in Washington Thursday. “It’s only fair to give us access.
“Congressional leaders have made it clear that they will not be in a position to support this agreement until the Korean market is fully reopened to U.S. beef products,” he said.
The Bush administration is eager for ratification of the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement, which is considered to be the most significant U.S. trade agreement of its type in 15 years. South Korea today has a population of 48 million consumers with an $888 billion economy and a per capita income of about $20,000 a year.
According to the Commerce Department, about 95 percent of bilateral trade in consumer and industrial products becomes duty-free within three years of the agreement entering into force. More than half, or $1.6 billion, of current U.S. farm exports go duty-free immediately.
Gutierrez also said it’s essential for the United States politically in Asia to ratify the U.S.-South Korea free trade deal as soon as possible.
“If unable to enact a strong and comprehensive FTA that so clearly benefits the United States, U.S. credibility in Asia could be seriously compromised,” Gutierrez said. “Fearing U.S. disengagement from the region, Korea and other emerging-market economies of the region will approach more willing trade partners and establish preferential agreements with them.”
He noted that South Korea is already negotiating free trade agreements with the European Union, ASEAN, Mexico, and India, and considering starting free trade talks with China.