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Harper Government Takes Steps to End WTO Challenge on South Korea’s Ban on Canadian Beef Imports

Government committed to opening new markets and defending Canadian interests

June 18, 2012 - The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, and the Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, today announced that Canada is taking steps to formally terminate the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement panel on the issue of the Republic of Korea’s ban on Canadian beef imports. Prime Minister Stephen Harper reiterated this commitment during his bilateral meeting with Lee Myung-bak, President of South Korea, at the G-20 Leaders’ Summit in Mexico.

“In light of the restored access and resumption of exports since January of world-class Canadian beef to the South Korean market, I’ve instructed officials to work with their South Korean counterparts to terminate Canada’s WTO challenge,” said Minister Fast. “Working with our South Korean partners, we will continue to build on this positive momentum to deepen our trade relationship.”

South Korea banned Canadian beef imports following Canada’s first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in May 2003. Ministers Fast and Ritz both pressed South Korea to restore beef access based on sound-science and internationally recognized OIE standards. To vigorously defend Canadian interests, the Harper government requested the establishment of a WTO panel in August 2009. The resumption of Canadian beef exports to South Korea in early 2012 removed the most significant trade irritant between the two countries. 

“Terminating the WTO panel is another positive step forward for Canada’s world-class beef industry after securing beef access to this priority market,” said Minister Ritz. “Agriculture plays a significant role in keeping our economy strong and the Harper government will continue to work with South Korea to expand our agricultural trade even further.”

As at June 13, 2012, more than 30 commercial beef shipments from Canada had cleared South Korean customs.

“The CCA fully supports the early termination of the WTO dispute panel,” said Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) President Martin Unrau. “We are hopeful that we can soon move forward to complete a Canada-Korea FTA and restore tariff parity between Canadian and U.S. beef in the Korean market.”

The lucrative South Korean beef market, which the Canadian beef industry estimates could grow to a value of $30 million by 2015, is the last major Asian market to lift its ban on Canadian beef. Canadian agri-food exports to South Korea were worth approximately $1.1 billion in 2011.

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A backgrounder follows.

For further information, media representatives may contact:

Rudy Husny
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Ed Fast
Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Meagan Murdoch
Director of Communications 
Office of the Honourable Gerry Ritz

Trade Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
Follow us on Twitter: @Canada_Trade

Media Relations
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Ottawa, Ontario

Backgrounder - Canadian Beef Exports to South Korea

Following Canada’s first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in May 2003, South Korea banned Canadian beef and beef products. In 2009, after failed attempts to reach a bilateral solution, Canada requested a World Trade Organization panel to review the South Korean ban.

In June 2011, ministers Ritz and Fast announced a breakthrough in bilateral discussions on restoring access for Canadian beef to the South Korean market. The Canadian and South Korean governments agreed to a process to restore access by the end of 2011.

On December 30, 2011, the South Korean parliament ratified the Import Health Requirements for Canadian Beef from animals under 30 months of age, one of the final steps in the process.

The South Korean government has complied with the terms of the June 2011 arrangement and has acted in good faith with respect to its inspection treatment of Canadian beef imports, in accordance with its Import Health Requirements for Canadian Beef. Since early 2012, more than 30 commercial beef shipments from Canada had cleared South Korean customs.