Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana has a beef with the South Korean trade deal. Baucus, whose committee oversees trade issues, is siding with cattle ranchers from his home state who were shut out of the deal. Baucus has not said whether he will merely vote against the agreement or will use the full force of his authority as finance chairman to block it indefinitely. The senator said he is working behind the scenes with U.S. trade officials to tweak the agreement to ensure Montana ranchers get a better deal.
Seoul's negotiators have indicated they will give no more ground beyond a 2008 concession to allow imports of beef from U.S. cattle that are less than 30 months old. U.S. beef exports have been rising sharply since 2008, and the exclusion for older beef covers only a small portion of the potential exports.
The treaty is the most significant trade pact since the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993. The administration says it will create tens of thousands of American jobs in manufacturing, agriculture, services and other sectors by boosting U.S. exports by up to 11-billion dollars. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association said many beef producers would benefit from the 40 percent drop in tariffs on the bulk of what they sell.