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Pres. Lee: Beef Renegotiation to Incur Trade Friction

Posted June. 07, 2008 08:39,   


President Lee Myung-bak warned yesterday that if he supports renegotiation of the U.S. beef import deal, it could deal a serious blow to the Korean economy and lead to bigger problems.

The president was speaking at a luncheon he hosted for leaders of the Korea Buddhist Order Association at the presidential office.

Lee in essence reiterated his opposition to renegotiation despite worsening public sentiment and growing candlelight vigils by anti-U.S. beef protesters.

“Korea is a trading nation,” he said. “If Korea proposes renegotiation, it could incur a trade dispute and a serious blow to Korea’s commodities exports such as cars and semiconductors. I cannot irresponsibly promise to renegotiate knowing that it will result in serious side effects.”

“What matters is to assure the people that beef from cattle aged 30 months or older will not be imported. This is possible. Even if the private sector decides not to import beef from cattle older than 30 months, the government can come up with effective measures. That’s important.”

Korean beef importers and U.S. beef exporters are attempting to reach a resolution banning beef from cattle older than 30 months. On this, the president said, “This is technically a type of renegotiation. When Japan faced trade disputes in the car sector, it also handled the issue by urging the private sector to reach a resolution.”

“If U.S. beef is found to have any serious problems, Korea will stop U.S. beef imports under the regulations of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. As you know, the U.S. must honor this pledged because it signed this document.”

In response, the Buddhist leaders attending said they understood the president’s difficulties, but that he had yet to fully explain his intentions. They urged him to fully inform the people of his difficulties and other issues.

The head of Korea’s largest Buddhist order Jogye, the Venerable Jigwan, also asked President Lee to postpone his proposed grand canal project, citing strong public opposition.

Lee responded by saying, “Since beef imports are about international trade, I cannot make an irresponsible statement. But I’ll listen to public opinions on the canal project.”