The U.S. Meat Export Federation is encouraged by the Obama Administration’s recent announcement of its intention to press forward on Congressional ratification of the pending U.S.-Korea Free-Trade Agreement.
Tariffs on U.S. pork and beef exports to Korea will be eliminated under the terms of the FTA. Currently, tariffs are 25 percent on most U.S. pork products and 40 percent on U.S. beef. Tariffs would be eliminated on frozen and processed U.S. pork by 2014 and on chilled pork within 10 years. The FTA will phase out tariffs on U.S. beef over the course of 15 years.
By value, Korea is this year’s fourth-largest destination for U.S. beef exports (through April, $112.3 million) and fifth-largest for U.S. pork ($69.5 million). While imported beef and pork from most of our major competitors face the same tariffs, this situation is changing rapidly.
Chile, which has an FTA in place that has already lowered the tariffs assessed by Korea, has captured 14 percent of Korea’s imported pork market and its pork exports to Korea are up 22 percent compared to last year. The European Union and Korea have already completed negotiations on an FTA that will eliminate duties on the same schedule outlined in the U.S.-Korea FTA. Korea also recently completed its fifth round of FTA negotiations with Australia, which is its largest foreign provider of beef.
“As the EU and Australia move ever closer to implementing FTAs with Korea, the urgency of the U.S.-Korea agreement becomes all the more pronounced,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and chief executive officer. “Korea’s high tariffs already impact demand by artificially raising the cost for consumers. But the situation will become even more difficult if our major competitors in the market get a running head start on the tariff reduction process.”
Seng said Australia gaining a price advantage would be especially unfortunate now that U.S. beef is regaining market share and finding renewed success in Korea. “U.S. beef is back in Korea’s major retail stores and restaurant chains, and is gaining consumer acceptance every day. Ratification of the FTA would allow us to build further on this momentum.
“The situation with pork is equally concerning,” Seng added. “We have already seen an FTA provide momentum for Chilean pork exports and we cannot afford to fall behind other major competitors. The U.S. is still the leading provider of pork to Korea, but it’s a very competitive market and we absolutely cannot afford to take that position for granted.”