Canada formally drops WTO beef dispute with Korea

The Canadian government has formally shut down its 2009 request for a trade dispute settlement panel over South Korea’s 2003 ban on Canada’s beef.

Korea in January re-opened its market to Canadian beef from cattle under 30 months of age, as per a June 2011 agreement to restore Canada’s beef market access.

That agreement led Canada in June last year to file for a suspension of the work by a dispute settlement panel, convened by the World Trade Organization’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) to rule on Canada’s complaint.

The suspension ended the panel’s work toward a ruling which otherwise was expected to be issued by the end of August last year.

From the date of the suspension, Canada had 12 months in which it could resume the panel if its agreement on beef access was "not respected" by Korea — or Canada could terminate the panel.

The government, after consulting with the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), agreed to terminate the panel.

"Korean and Canadian officials have worked in good faith to resolve some technical issues that potentially could have become an obstacle," said CCA president Martin Unrau, a cattle producer at MacGregor, Man.

"With this good experience, the CCA fully supports the early termination of the WTO dispute panel regarding Korea."

The agreement ends one of the longer bans on imports of Canadian beef stemming from the 2003 confirmation of Canada’s first domestic case of BSE, in an Alberta cow.

The CCA on Monday also urged Canada and Korea to "continue their dialogue" toward concluding long-stalled talks on a bilateral Canada-Korea free trade agreement (FTA).

Formal negotiations, which the two countries began in 2005, have not taken place since March 2008.

As of Wednesday last week, "more than 30" commercial beef shipments from Canada have cleared South Korean customs since January, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

"Exports of Canadian beef to Korea since January have gone as well as could be expected in light of the tariff advantage for U.S. beef," Unrau said Monday.

Korea and the U.S. in March this year implemented a separate free trade pact, in which Korean tariffs on U.S. beef imports will be cut by 2.7 percentage points per year until U.S. beef is duty free in 2026, the CCA said.

"Canadian beef, meanwhile, will remain subject to the full 40 per cent tariff unless Canada and Korea also reach an FTA."

Related story:
South Korea allowing Canadian beef ‘immediately,’ Jan. 20, 2012

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