U.S., South Korea complete trade negotiations

by World Grain Staff
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WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — U.S. President Barrack Obama announced on Dec. 3 that trade officials from the U.S. and South Korea had reached agreement on the trade accord, which is expected to increase annual exports of U.S. goods by up to $11 billion and support at least 70,000 American jobs.

The agreement was reached after negotiators ironed out outstanding issues over U.S. automobile exports to South Korea, and agreed to continue discussions on ways to facilitate U.S. beef trade consistent with international animal health guidelines.

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) commended the successful negotiations and long-sought trade agreement that will bring major benefits to U.S. agricultural exports. The group encouraged Congress to act favorably on the accord promptly once President Obama submits it for ratification next year. The agreement also requires approval from the South Korean National Assembly.

“Trade is absolutely vital if the U.S. is to restore economic growth and create new jobs, including in rural America,” said NGFA President Kendell W. Keith. “Exports represent up to one-third of total usage of U.S. feed grains and 50 percent of total usage of U.S. wheat and soybeans – either as raw commodity exports or as value-added products, such as meat. We look forward to working with the administration to secure congressional ratification of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, and trust that this landmark accord will serve as a springboard for ratification of outstanding trade agreements with Colombia and Panama, as well, which have been awaiting action for more than three years.”

Cargill said it views the agreement as a vital step in promoting economic growth and greater commercial ties between the two nations.

"We applaud the U.S. and Korean negotiators for concluding this important free trade agreement," said Greg Page, Cargill chairman and chief executive officer. "We are hopeful that Congress will act expeditiously to pass this agreement."

Cargill believes trade serves as a catalyst for social and economic growth globally—helping create jobs, support local economies, and advance food security, contributing to a more nourished global population.

The NGFA noted that the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, once implemented, is projected to result in an additional $1.8 billion in annual U.S. agricultural exports and further enhance the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture in South Korea’s $1 trillion economy and among its market of 49 million consumers.

The U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, initially completed by the Bush administration in 2007, would be the most economically significant U.S. trade accord since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Its implementation would result in nearly two-thirds of U.S. farm product exports to South Korea becoming duty-free immediately, including wheat, corn, soybeans for crushing, corn gluten feed and meal, whey for feed use, cotton, hides and skins and a broad range of high-value U.S. agricultural products. Other farm products that would benefit from market-free access within new tariff-rate quotas established under the agreement include dextrin’s and modified starches, soybeans for food use, whey for food use, barley, hay, skim milk powder, cheese and popcorn. A zero tariff rate also would be implemented for all U.S. pork exports by 2016.

Significantly, the accord also would reinforce the prohibition against sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures being used as trade barriers, and South Korea would recognize the equivalence of the U.S. food safety inspection system for meat and poultry exported to that country. Specifically, the agreement establishes an SPS committee, whose goal is to achieve regulatory harmonization through the use of international standards and guidelines, including those issued by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
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