Australia pushes for Korean trade deal
losing 12.5 per cent of its food and agricultural exports to the
US, a new report warns.
With Korea's booming population now requiring that the country imports over half of its agricultural needs, many countries around the world are eager to cash in on the burgeoning export opportunities. Commissioned by Australia's National Farmers' Federation, the report predicts that the Australian food industry faces profit losses of up to AUS$800m (€483m) when the US-Korea trade agreement (KORUS) comes into effect, unless a similar Australia-Korea agreement is signed. "A trade agreement with the US will likely have large impacts on Korean agriculture, and may see third countries such as Australia losing market share in Korea," the report said. "That is, US exports will displace Australian exports in the Korean market." If KORUS is ratified, as planned, in January 2008, the US will have "preferential treatment" in the Korean market place, the report claims. This will result in Australia losing millions of dollars in lost exports by 2030, with the sharpest declines in cattle meat, wheat and other crops. The only sectors that will not lose revenue are the plant-base fibres and processed rice markets, the report predicts. However, if an agreement between Australia and Korea is drawn up, the rate of agriculture and food exports will increase 53.3 per cent during the same period. Better still, if the US deal does not go ahead, and Australia's does, Australian exports to Korea will be a massive 80 per cent more than otherwise. Korea is one of the most important markets for Australian exports, the report states, with food and agricultural exports to the country being valued at AUS$1.9bn (€1.1bn) in 2006, up from AUS$1.5bn (€0.9bn) in 2005. The main exports to Korea are meat, comprising 45 per cent of the total, was followed by sugar, 24 per cent, and cereals, 15 per cent. Dairy and oil seed products both account for three per cent of the exported goods. The US-Korea trade agreement, which has not yet been ratified by legislators in both countries, will result in the US reaping the benefits of Korea's strong economic growth, taking the currently increasing profits away from Australian producers, the report stated. In April, the US and Korea set out the finishing touches of the agreement, which include South Korea phasing out a 40 per cent tariff on US beef, and the US accepting to buy goods from some production plants in North Korea. Last year, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated that South Korea now imports 60 per cent to 70 per cent of its total agricultural needs. "Suppliers have a strong opportunity to export raw materials and ingredients for food processing in South Korea," the USDA stated in a report. "...Imports are necessary because domestic production cannot meet demand." This demand is in part being driven by growing consumer expenditure on food products. South Korea is expected to spend $54bn (€41bn) on food products in 2007, from $52bn (€39bn) in 2006, estimates Euromonitor. The report was done by the Centre for International Economics Canberra & Sydney.