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Reactions to proposed South Korean trade deal

Though seemingly encouraged by the progress that's been made toward a trade agreement with South Korea, U.S. officials this week said lacking a plan for beef trade resumption remains in the way of the deal's ratification.

Following are comments from officials after learning of the deal this week:

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley:

"I have mixed feelings. We already have a $72 billion trading relationship with the Koreans, and full implementation of this agreement would promote significant growth in our bilateral trade.

"Even more problematic is the absence of an agreement to remove Korea's ban on U.S. beef, which is not scientifically justified. The fact is, U.S. beef is safe. Millions of consumers enjoy it every day. The political reality in Congress is that no matter the benefits, this agreement is dead on arrival until the beef issue gets resolved. I urge the Korean government to engage our Administration in a strong effort to resolve the beef issue as quickly as possible."

Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss:

"While the United States and Korean negotiators reached a free trade agreement late last night is encouraging, several issues cause me great concern. It appears that the Korean Government continues to flaunt sound science and they will not agree to accept U.S. beef exports by a date certain despite overwhelming evidence that there is no health threat. My patience with the Korean government continues to wear thin and I certainly hope this will be resolved in short order.

"Free trade benefits our country, but agreements must be balanced and U.S. agriculture cannot be excluded from the benefits. U.S. agriculture should not be asked to sacrifice the safety net in the Doha Round if farmers and ranchers are excluded from the most profitable markets.

"It is too early to voice my support or opposition to this agreement, but I look forward to discussing these matters with Ambassador Schwab in the weeks and months to come."

Wyoming Sen. Craig Thomas:

"Ongoing trade with South Korea remains important to both economies. One of Wyoming's export industries -- soda ash -- will have expanded opportunities in the South Korean market. I'd like to see a similar result for Wyoming beef."

Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi:

"U.S. beef is safe. Americans know that. South Koreans know that. It is time South Korea looks to the scientific evidence that tells them what they already know. I think they know that in order to get this agreement finalized they will have to open their borders. I'm hopeful that they will."

National Cattlemen's Beef Association chief economist Gregg Doud:

"America's cattlemen deserve access to the South Korean marketplace. U.S. beef and beef products are the safest in the world, and Korean consumers should have access to the same delicious U.S. beef they enjoyed prior to December 2003. There is simply no justifiable reason for the South Korean government to continue to ban imports of U.S. beef.

"We have said all along that cattlemen will not support the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) until commercially viable beef trade between our two countries is resumed. Historically, South Korea represented the third largest market for U.S. beef and beef variety meat exports, valued at $815 million in 2003.

"If we are not selling beef in Korea, the benefits of this trade agreement and the potential of the Korean market hold little value to U.S. cattle producers.

"Therefore, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) is withholding support for the U.S.-South Korea FTA until commercially viable beef trade is occurring based on the internationally recognized guidelines established by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

"The next 90 days are critical, and NCBA will continue to closely monitor the situation over this time period. As soon as we see U.S. beef trade based upon OIE guidelines occurring between the United States and Korea, NCBA will support the U.S.-South Korea FTA and the market access terms negotiated in this agreement. If that does not occur, NCBA and our cattle producer-members will oppose this FTA."

Though seemingly encouraged by the progress that's been made toward a trade agreement with South Korea, U.S. officials this week said lacking a plan for beef trade resumption remains in the way of the deal's ratification.

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