There has been a lot of speculation about the possibility of South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak requesting to renegotiate the deal between the United States and South Korea that was to have fully opened the market to U.S. beef. However Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner emphatically says that is not in the cards.
"We have national protocols that we have negotiated with the Korean government," Conner says. "We do not intend to renegotiate those protocols."
Massive protests in South Korea wanting more stringent restrictions forced the government to pull back from the agreed upon deal with the U.S. that would have allowed all beef, regardless of age into South Korea. They are working with industry specifically to see if they can get the industry to ship what they see as appropriate products. South Korea has asked the U.S. for assurances that no beef products from animals more than 30 months of age will be shipped to their country in hopes of defusing the continuing storm that this issue has stirred up.
There are some companies in the U.S. that have said they would be willing to label shipments of beef to South Korea with the age of the cattle the beef came from. Conner says USDA has no problem with that.
"If U.S. suppliers want to supply that product by those specifications; that's a private commercial transaction that we don't intend to interfere with and have no opposition to," Conner says.
A South Korean delegation is meeting with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative this week.