The CEOs of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the North American Meat Institute, and the U.S. Meat Export Federation today sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and Ambassador Robert Lighthizer of USTR to highlight the success the U.S. beef industry has experienced with its exports to South Korea since the entry into force of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). The industry letter was prompted by the recent announcement from the Trump Administration that there will be a special session with South Korea to discuss potential changes to the KORUS. The meeting will be held in Washington, D.C., in August.
“Simply put, KORUS created the ideal environment for the U.S. beef industry to thrive in South Korea,” the letter said. “We would not support any changes in the terms of the KORUS that would jeopardize either our market share or the significant investment that has been made in rebuilding Korean consumer confidence in the safety, quality, and consistency of U.S. beef.”
Together, the three U.S. beef industry associations represent the entire beef value chain, from ranchers to feedlot operators to meat packers and export trading companies, and they are united in the position that continued access to the South Korean market on the terms that were negotiated in the KORUS is essential to the future health of the U.S. beef industry.
The letter states that “Under KORUS, the U.S. beef industry has seen an 82 percent increase in annual sales to South Korea, from $582 million in 2012 to $1.06 billion in 2016, making South Korea the second largest export market for U.S. beef. Many cuts like short ribs and chuck rolls receive a significant premium in South Korea over prices in the U.S. market. KORUS established strong science-based trade measures and a schedule for the elimination of South Korea’s 40 percent tariff on U.S. beef—terms that have allowed the U.S. beef industry to be very competitive in South Korea.”
The letter further states that “implementing KORUS before the Australians implemented their free trade agreement with South Korea has given U.S. beef a significant tariff rate advantage in South Korea, and the United States is now the leading source of beef imports in South Korea.”
The U.S. beef industry is a vitally important part of the U.S. agricultural economy and one of the largest employers in rural communities across the United States. Exports are a critical component of the continued profitability of the U.S. beef industry and make a significant contribution to the positive balance of trade that the United States enjoys in food and agricultural products. Last year, we sold $6.3 billion of U.S. beef to foreign consumers, with exports to South Korea, accounting for 17 percent of the total.