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U.S. Congress Places Unusual Pressures on Beef Importation

U.S. Congress Places Unusual Pressures on Beef Importation

Posted April. 07, 2007 07:54,   


With the resumption of U.S. beef imports emerging as a major stumbling block in the Korea - U.S. FTA talks, hardliners in Congress raised their discontent with the Korean government’s measures. According to a Washington source, such stiff attitudes are obvious in Congress, which is in stark contrast to the Korean government’s accounts. A source from the U.S. congress said on Thursday, “I reached a conclusion after analyzing all 21 members in the senate finance committee that the FTA negotiations between the two countries wouldn’t pass the finance committee unless U.S. beef imports are resumed by the Korean government.” The source added, “We cannot rule out the possibility of free trade talks being voted down in the Congress, especially when it comes to the controversy caused by discovered bone fractures.”

In other words, although the Korean government declared that measures to import U.S. beef will restart in late May, this issue will not be easily settled given the uproar due to discovered bone fractures. Therefore, the odds are not good, and the issue will remain sticky until Congress prepares to vote on this topic of Korea-U.S. FTA talks.

Wendy Cutler, assistant trade representative to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), who led the FTA negotiations with the Korean government, strongly suggested U.S. Congress’s firm position on this issue at the luncheon meeting hosted by the Korean Economic Institute of America (KEI). She stated, “The U.S. congress made it clear that it will not approve the FTA agreement unless Korea completely resumes the U.S. beef importation into their market.”

When the negotiating parties finally sign the agreement in late June, the U.S. executive is expected to submit the bill to enact the agreement between the end of July and August. Then, a vote on the bill will take place through several stages, including the House ways and means, the House of Representatives, the Senate finance committee, and finally, the Senate.

The Senate Finance Committee is a very powerful government organization and is headed by Max Baucos, who hails from Montana, a state whose major industry is cattle.

He consistently argued since last January, “If there is no promise to resume the U.S. beef importation by the Korean government, the agreement will go no where.”

A senior official at the Korean Embassy in the U.S. confirmed the harsh position by Congress, saying, “We have heard about it. If FTA talks are voted down in the U.S. Congress, the main obstacle would be beef rather than automobiles.”

Presidential Economic Secretary Yoon Dae-hee said yesterday, “The U.S. government is well aware of our position, which is that the beef issue has nothing to do with the FTA talks, so I believe that beef will pose no threat to the agreement.”