US to hold South Korea trade talks

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags South korea United states

South Korea and the United States are set to begin talks on a free
trade agreement that promises to benefit food and drink sector
firms on both sides of the Pacific.

US president George Bush announced last week bilateral trade talks with South Korea were set to begin.

Mike Johanns, US agriculture secretary, said: "A free trade agreement will greatly improve access for our producers to Korean consumers that seek high quality and affordably priced U.S. products.

"[South] Korea already is a significant market for our corn, soybeans, wheat, processed foods, cotton, citrus, nuts and fruit juices."​ The country imported $10.6bn worth of agricultural products in 2004.

It and the US are already big trade partners, via a closer relationship established in the aftermath of World War Two.

South Korea, now the world's tenth largest economy, is the US' sixth largest export market for agricultural goods, while the US is South Korea's biggest bilateral trading partner and the largest foreign investor in South Korean business.

The US dairy industry has already pledged its support to the bilateral trade negotiations, with the Asia Pacific region generally considered a strongly emerging market for dairy products.

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the US Dairy Export Council (USDEC) said in a letter to US Trade Representative Robert Portman that South Korea was "one of strategic importance to the US dairy industry"​.

"Korea provides very attractive growth potential for U.S. dairy exports, particularly for our cheeses,"​ said Tom Suber, USDEC president.

Both dairy groups said import trade barriers had hampered market access to South Korea, although a "significant expansion"​ last year saw US dairy shipments to the country hit $58m, up from $46m in 2004.

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