In July, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is reexamining the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) by formally notifying South Korea the United States will call a special joint committee meeting to discuss the trade agreement and consider changes.
KORUS entered into force on March 5, 2012. Total U.S. exports of agricultural products to Korea totaled $6.2 billion in 2016, its fifth largest agricultural export market.
U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) all believe the withdrawal from the trade agreement would negatively impact the U.S. agriculture sector and give other countries an opening.
“The council strongly opposes withdrawal from the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), an action that will lead to immediate and sustained losses in sales to our third largest corn customer,” the USGC said. “South Korea is an example of the transformational partnership available to U.S. grain farmers and their global customers through strong trade policy and overseas market development.”
According to the USGC, South Korea is one of the strongest markets for U.S. grains and value-added products made from grain. The USGC has worked in South Korea since 1972, providing technical assistance and expertise on how to best utilize corn and related products like distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), educating government officials on the advantages of biotechnology and promoting trade.
“We believe it would be irresponsible to unilaterally walk away from this or any other trade agreement,” said Mike Miller, chairman of USW. “Withdrawing raises the specter of retaliation against agricultural exports and creates unnecessary uncertainty in the market. Any disruption in the relationship wheat growers have built in Korea over more than 60 years gives Australia, Canada and even Russia an opening to move in and take business away from us at a time when we are all struggling to stay profitable. KORUS, like the North American Free Trade Agreement, has been very good for American agriculture.”
“We think this trade agreement, negotiated in good faith and strongly supported in Congress, reinforces the administration’s stated goal to sell more agricultural products overseas,” said David Schemm, president of NAWG. “We support finding ways to improve any agreement, but let’s do that in a reasoned and respectful way, with input from all stakeholders so U.S. wheat farmers can gain greater access to world markets.”
Korea was the third largest volume importer of U.S. wheat in marketing year 2016-17 (June to May), the USW and NAWG said.
In July, The U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) welcomed a trade team of four Korean executives from major flour milling companies to the United States.
Chang Yoon Kang, USW Country director for Korea, who led the trade team, explained that the Korean wheat foods market is developing in a way that is similar to the U.S. market. End-product flour specifications in Korea are becoming more complicated because consumers demand quality and an increasingly wide range of products.
“This trip let us see firsthand, the quality of U.S. wheat and to meet the people who grow it,” said Dong Bae Nam, executive director, Sajodongaone Company, one of the members on the Korean trade team. “I came with questions about U.S. wheat production, and meeting with FGIS and learning about the wheat breeding system showed me the quality and safety of U.S. wheat. We appreciate the hospitality and opportunity to build relationships with U.S. farmers.”