Contributing Lawyers


Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross


Andrew Hudson

Korea and U.S. Beef Problem

I was in Seoul, South Korea last week with the American Bar Association ILEX trip and we learned first hand about the anti-U.S beef sentiment in Korea.  This is a divisive issue in Korea and may stop the Korea - U.S. Free Trade Agreement from moving forward in any meaningful way.  It is clear that if the United States requests any further changes to the Korea - United States Free Trade Agreement, the Koreans will be asking for duties to remain on beef from the United States.  There is a consumer backlash and a clear indication that Koreans do not want U.S. beef in the Korean marketplace. 

The concern is a health concern. It may be that there is insufficient evidence that U.S. cattle are "more mad" than any other cattle.  However, there has been some press about BSE and other diseases that may be transmitted to humans via the consumption of beef.

There is an interesting consumer misunderstanding.  Just because tariffs will be reduced on U.S. beef does not obligate any Korean to import or purchase U.S beef for consumption.  If the consumers do not want to buy U.S. beef, they do not have to.  It would not be contrary to the Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement for Koreans to prefer Korean Beef (which is very good).  The concern would have to shift into a consumer protection concern - that grocers will trick consumers into buying U.S. beef by mislabeling it as Korean beef.  Surely, Korean legislation may address this problem.

Alternatively, if the Korea - United States Free Trade Agreement could be amended to adopt the United States - Australia Free Trade Agreement 18 year elimination schedule for beef - surely if the United States - Australia Free Trade Agreement reduction schedule is WTO compliant, the same reduction schedule would be WTO compliant if granted to Korea.  It may take 18 years to gather sufficient evidence on mad cows and switch to SPS measures to address the concerns.

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