CANADIAN negotiators were in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 25-29 for the first full negotiating round of a Canada-Korea free trade agreement (FTA) since last year. The talks have been stalled since January 2013.
With a new chief negotiator having been appointed since the last meeting, it appears that Korea may be prepared to work quickly to finalize an agreement, the Canadian Cattlemen's Assn. (CCA) reported.
CCA continues to encourage the government of Canada to achieve an FTA with Korea as soon as possible to restore its position in the Korean market.
Canadian beef regained access to Korea in January 2012 following a nearly nine-year prohibition due to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
CCA said when the Korea-U.S. FTA (KORUS) came into effect fewer than two months later, it put Canadian beef at an immediate tariff disadvantage to U.S. beef.
Under KORUS, Korea's tariff on U.S. beef imports is decreasing by 2.7 percentage points per year until U.S. beef is duty free in 2026. Beef from Canada (as well as from Australia and New Zealand) will remain subject to the full 40% tariff when entering Korea until Canada and Korea reach an agreement to improve access.
Korea has also been publicly floating its interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). To do so, Korea will have to be accepted by all of the existing TPP partners, which include Canada, Australia and New Zealand, among others.
"We believe that Korea may be highly motivated to conclude bilateral agreements with Canada, Australia and New Zealand in order to pave their way into the TPP," CCA said in a statement. "Our view is that we should seize the opportunity to secure favorable access for Canadian beef into that important market."
A spokesperson for Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade & Development noted that Canada is "working closely with Korea towards a high-quality, bilateral free trade agreement" and added that 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The trade spokesperson noted that Canada welcomed Korea's announcement of its intent to consider participation in TPP.
Prior to the discovery of BSE, Korea was Canada's fourth-largest beef export market, shipping 14,400 metric tons of Canadian beef valued at nearly $50 million to Korea in 2002.
Canada's access to the Korean beef market was restored in January 2012, and the first shipments resumed in May 2012. Total shipments for the last eight months of 2012 were just more than 2,000 mt, with a value of almost $10 million. Almost all of the shipments in 2012 were frozen beef. Monthly shipments throughout 2013 have steadily declined.