The head of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association hopes Canadian beef exports to South Korea will resume later this year, following an agreement between the two countries to resume trade after an eight-year hiatus.
Travis Toews called the agreement significant because South Korea was once Canada’s fourth-largest beef customer until 2003, when the discovery of BSE in Alberta halted sales.
South Korea is the last remaining major market to totally ban beef from Canada because of BSE. Although all countries immediately closed their borders to Canadian beef after an Alberta cow was found with the disease in May 2003, every international market except the southeast Asian nation now admits at least some Canadian beef.
The technical agreement announced by Ottawa June 27 calls for South Korea to admit imports of bone-in beef from Canadian cattle under 30 months of age (UTM).
Once the agreement is finalized, South Korea will publish a rule for its legislators to ratify, Toews said.
In 2009, Canada took South Korea before a WTO dispute panel over its continued refusal
to admit Canadian beef, even though other countries gradually reopened their markets.
An interim panel ruling, originally expected this past April, was due for release at the end of June.
The fact that the agreement was announced only days before the scheduled panel decision suggests the Koreans may have expected it to go against them, Toews said.
“We were pretty confident that Canada was going to win that case,” he said. “I believe the Koreans probably thought we might as well.”
South Korea was thought to have a weak case since it admits UTM beef from the United States, which also has BSE.
In return for the agreement, Canada has asked for a suspension of the WTO panel proceedings. But if the South Korean legislature fails to ratify the deal, CCA will demand the case be revived and the panel decision brought back, said Toews.
“It’s very important the Koreans know that Canada can reinstate this case if need be.”
Toews said South Korea is a good market for beef because it pays premiums for cuts considered low end here, such as short ribs. Previously, short ribs made up most of Canada’s beef sales to the Asian nation.
According to U.S. industry estimates, short ribs alone going into Korea can add a value of $20 per head.
Toews said he hoped the resumption of beef trade with South Korea could help further reopen sales to other nations which continue some restrictions. For example, Japan allows Canadian beef only from cattle under 21 months of age. [email protected]
– travis toews, cca