Officials from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) held meetings with their Korean counterparts recently in Seoul to continue discussions on laws and regulations related to implementation of the free-trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and South Korea.

According to the National Pork Producers Council, the FTA with Korea will create 9,100 direct U.S. pork industry jobs, add $10 to the price producers receive for each hog marketed and will be worth an additional $786 million annually to the U.S. pork industry.

Pork exports to South Korea in 2011 grew at a blistering pace and will result in a record year. For the first 11 months of 2011, exports to Korea have soared by 176 percent to $453.7 million, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation, with November results nearly doubling in value over the prior year to $35.6 million.

In 2010, South Korea was the fifth largest volume market and sixth largest value market for U.S. pork exports, totaling 86,970 metric tons worth almost $190 million.

Currently, U.S. pork exports to South Korea are subject to significant tariffs of 25 percent on frozen pork products and 22.5 percent on fresh or chilled pork products.

Under the FTA, tariffs will be eliminated on all U.S. frozen pork and some processed pork products by 2016, and fresh-chilled pork will be duty-free 10 years after implementation of the agreement.

Once it enters into force, the U.S.-Korea trade deal will be the United States' most commercially significant free trade agreement in more than 16 years. President Obama signed free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama on October 21, 2011, but the agreements have yet to be implemented.

Meanwhile, the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea (AMCHAM) is gearing up for a busy year promoting the trade deal, according to a report in the Korean Herald. According to the report, AMCHAM expects visits by delegations from 22 U.S. states looking to find partnerships and gain a better understanding of the trade deal.

The United States is also in negotiations of a regional, Asia-Pacific trade agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement with the objective of shaping a high-standard, broad-based regional pact.

Source: NPPC, USTR, USMEF, Korean Herald