The renegotiated U.S. - Korea free trade deal may still face a tough fight on Capitol Hill, despite a more Republican, more pro-trade congress. The re-worked deal, first brokered in the Bush administration, includes no change in Korea’s 30-month cattle age restriction on U.S. beef. Senate Finance chair Max Baucus told U.S. Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk, at a hearing last August:
“I hear a lot of words; I don’t get a lot of results. I don’t see why I should schedule a hearing on a Korean FTA if it doesn’t include all beef, all ages, all cuts.”
But American Farm Bureau trade adviser Chris Garza says the FTA reached Friday is “much more” than just the 30-month beef protocol:
“Our tariffs on beef will be reduced once the FTA begins to become implemented. And we’re continuing to push the Koreans to fully implement to protocol so that at some point we can get all US beef into the market.”
But, Garza argues if Baucus or other lawmakers want to oppose the Korea deal when it goes to the hill early next year, they will have little support from agriculture, now largely behind the agreement:
“But, what they have to understand is that the American Farm Bureau supports this, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association supports this, the American Meat Institute supports this; the meat industry supports this. The beef industry supports this. Some members are going to find themselves out there alone if they oppose this.”
Garza says even without full Korean market access for U.S. beef, AFB projects the FTA will still be worth a fortune in new U.S. ag sales in South Korea:
“This feels good overall for US agriculture. We’re looking at $1.8 billion in additional agricultural exports into the market in all sectors; grains, fruits and vegetables, meat products.”
Garza says Farm Bureau hopes the Korea deal also opens the door for swift action on the Panama and Colombia FTAs, together worth over a billion in added U.S. ag sales.
Meanwhile, the White House and staffers from Senator Max Baucus’ office continue to work with Korea to find a solution to lifting the ban on beef over the age of 30 months.