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Key Topic: Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) recently called for a special session of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) Joint Committee to discuss possible modifications to the agreement. Following the Aug. 22 meeting, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer noted that two issues he specifically hopes to address are the expansion of the United States’ trade deficit with South Korea since KORUS was implemented in 2012, as well as a decline in total U.S. goods exported to Korea.

UPDATE: Fortunately, the Trump administration apparently intends to pursue amendments to KORUS but has no immediate plans (contrary to earlier reports) to withdraw from the agreement. A second session of the KORUS Joint Committee was held Oct. 4, with USTR releasing this statement. This is a situation that USMEF and its industry partners continue to monitor carefully.

UPDATE: On Dec. 18, 2017, the South Korean government submitted a plan on the renegotiation of KORUS to the National Assembly. This will effectively conclude the domestic procedures required before the Korean government can formally open talks with the Trump administration.

UPDATE: On Jan. 5, 2018, trade officials from the United States and South Korea met to advance talks related to possible amendments and modifications to KORUS. USTR issued a brief statement following the meeting.

UPDATE: Jan. 31-Feb.1, 2018, trade officials from the U.S. and Korea met for the second time on possible amendments and modifications to KORUS. USTR issued a brief statement following the meeting.

UPDATE: The third round of KORUS negotiations was March 15-17 in Washington, D.C.

UPDATE: On March 28, the U.S. and South Korea issued a joint statement indicating that the two sides have reach an agreement in principle on amendments and modifications to KORUS.

USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom issued the following statement:

The announcement of a successfully revised KORUS trade agreement comes as excellent news for the U.S. beef and pork industries because it helps ensure that we will continue to be able to serve the growing South Korean market and a critically important customer base. The United States is the largest supplier of beef to Korea and trails only the European Union as the second-largest pork supplier. U.S. red meat exports to Korea set a record last year of $1.7 billion, up 19 percent year-over-year and up 69 percent from 2012.

Under KORUS, most U.S. pork products now enter Korea duty free. The duty on U.S. beef has been reduced from 40 percent to 21.3 percent and will continue to decline each year until it is eliminated by 2026. It is especially important that these tariff rate reductions are maintained, because the other major pork and beef suppliers to Korea also have free trade agreements with similar market access terms.


Key points on the critical importance of KORUS to U.S. red meat exports are available in this fact sheet.

UPDATE: On Sept. 24, 2018, the revised KORUS FTA was signed by President Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom issued the following statement:

Signing of the revised KORUS agreement is reassuring news for the U.S. beef and pork industries. The market access terms secured in the original KORUS not only helped increase U.S. red meat’s market share in South Korea, but also bolstered consumption by making our beef and pork products more affordable and accessible to Korean consumers. The United States is the largest supplier of beef to Korea and trails only the European Union as the second-largest pork supplier. U.S. red meat exports to Korea set a record last year of $1.7 billion, up 19 percent year-over-year and up 69 percent from 2012, when KORUS entered into force. This trend continues in 2018, with both U.S. beef and pork export value increasing more than 50 percent compared to a year ago. Korea is now the second-largest value market for U.S. beef (after Japan) and fourth-largest for U.S. pork (after Japan, Mexico and China/Hong Kong).

Under KORUS, most U.S. pork products now enter Korea duty-free. The duty rate on U.S. beef has been reduced from 40 percent to 21.3 percent and will continue to decline each year until it is eliminated by 2026. All major red meat competitors also now have free trade agreements with Korea, but the U.S. has benefited from KORUS being implemented earlier than most of these FTAs, providing the U.S. with a head start on tariff elimination. USMEF thanks our U.S. trade officials for recognizing the importance of the favorable terms included in KORUS, and maintaining them in the revised agreement.