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AMI President J. Patrick Boyle Tells House Subcommittee That Full Restoration of Beef Trade With Korea Should Be Prerequisite for U.S.-Korean Free Trade Agreement

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Full restoration of beef trade with Korea should be a prerequisite for a U.S.-Korean Free Trade Agreement, according to AMI President J. Patrick Boyle, who testified today before the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade.

“The current Korean import requirements for U.S. beef do not come close to a first stage of reopening trade. The beef industry is united and has informed USTR and USDA that they will not support an FTA with Korea if U.S. beef exports are not normalized,” Boyle said.

In his testimony, Boyle told the Subcommittee that the U.S. government and beef industry have a proactive track record of BSE prevention and the U.S. has earned the right to export beef freely under international guidelines set by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). He detailed the United States’ interlocking safeguards against BSE and expressed frustration with Korea’s inaction in restoring full beef trade.

Just last week, according to Boyle, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) expert panel recommended a preliminary designation for the U.S. of a "Controlled Risk" country for BSE. “This designation affirms the U.S.’ proactive and effective commitment to preventing BSE and controlling it should it occur,” he said, noting that under such a designation, U.S. cattle and products from cattle of all ages can be safely traded in accordance with international guidelines.

“The facts are indisputable. No nation acted with as much forethought as the U.S. to prevent a disease, detect it if it existed and control and destroy it if it occurred. Using a surveillance system that far exceeds international guidelines, we have detected only three cases in a 100 million head herd. More importantly, no BSE-related human illness has ever been associated with eating U.S. beef,” he said. “We have earned the right to trade in the international arena under international guidelines.”

Boyle told the committee that prior to December 2003, Korea represented the U.S.’ third largest beef export market valued at $750 million. Korea ceased all U.S. beef imports following the first U.S. case of BSE and has been slow to restore full and meaningful beef trade with the U.S. even though international animal health guidelines support restoration of trade.

As a condition of commencing FTA negotiations, according to Boyle, the Koreans agreed to allow resumption of U.S. beef imports in a two phased approach: first, immediately allowing boneless beef from animals less than 30 months, and second, allow beef and beef products from animals of all ages upon conclusion of the FTA negotiations.

But Boyle said the omission of a very common commercial bone tolerance has effectively precluded any meaningful resumption of trade and resulted in Korea rejecting three shipments of beef. In December, three separate shipments from three different companies were rejected because bone fragments were found by the Korean government. International guidelines permit bone-in beef to be internationally traded.

“Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the safety of U.S. beef, more than 17 years of controls, a preliminary expert panel designation, and an agreement to restore trade, the ban persists,” Boyle said. “Therefore, we urge you and your colleagues to communicate to the South Korean government that the resumption of full beef access must occur prior to the conclusion of the FTA negotiations. Should this ban be resolved and full market access restored, we stand ready to be strong, vocal supporters of this agreement and its Congressional passage.”

For more information contact:
David Ray
Vice President, Public Affairs
Janet Riley
Sr. Vice President, Public Affairs

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