South Korea to start U.S. beef talks
December 19, 2005

South Korea announced it would tomorrow start preliminary discussions to assess the safety of U.S. beef imports, which have been banned since the first U.S.-discovered case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in December 2003, Reuters reported.

The U.S. delegation, arriving in the country this afternoon, will hold a preliminary meeting with South Korea on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.

Before the ban, South Korea was the world’s third-largest import market for U.S. beef. U.S beef accounted for two-thirds of the 300,000 tons imported into the country in 2003.

A South Korean animal quarantine committee failed last week to make a recommendation on lifting the ban, saying members were divided on the risks, leaving a decision in the hands of the agriculture ministry, the article continued.

Most panel members have been in favor of declaring U.S. beef safe, but a few are seeking more safeguards, South Korean Agriculture Minister Park Hyun-Chool said last week. Responding to the concern, the ministry will focus on whether to allow beef only from young cattle and whether importation of bovine bones will be allowed.

Japan has agreed to resume imports of beef from cattle aged 20 months or younger, while a panel in Taiwan is still discussing whether to allow imports of boneless cuts from cattle less than 30 months of age.

U.S., China to confer on scientific issues relative to trade

In other trade news, the United States and China will now hold regular consultations on animal and plant health technical issues, which often influence trade agreements and bans.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and China’s Agriculture Minister Du Qinglin signed the agreement while meeting in Hong Kong for the 6th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial this week, USDA reported.

The agreement established a joint Animal and Plant Health Working Group under the Joint Committee on Cooperation in Agriculture (JCCA). Composed of representatives of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), the working group will address sanitary and phytosanitary issues through the exchange of scientific and technical information, and promotion of cooperative efforts on domestic animal and plant health regulatory initiatives in both countries.

“Our working relationship with many countries was advanced this week,” said Johanns of the trade meetings in Hong Kong. “The momentum for opening Asia’s markets to U.S. beef is growing.”

— compiled by Meghan Soderstrom, Angus Productions Inc.

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