April 28, 2011


South Korea wants to buy North Carolina pork



South Korean Ambassador Han Duk-soo is eager to purchase pork from a North Carolina farm and sell it in his home country.


Such trade will take legislation from Congress, though, and Han is taking his lobbying efforts directly to the Americans who could benefit.


The soft-spoken diplomat and former prime minister is travelling across the US touting the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which aims to reduce tariffs and open Korean markets to American agriculture and other products.


"It's very scientific and environmentally friendly. I think there will be much more demand from Korea," Han said.


Proponents of the treaty say it will open up South Korea's 49 million consumers to US exports, including pork. Deborah Johnson of the North Carolina Pork Council expects the treaty will increase profits by US$10 per pig, because Korea now has tariffs of up to 49%. If the treaty fails in Congress, Johnson said, American pork producers won't be selling there in the future. "We can't lose international markets like the Korean market," she said.


Han said that Congress needs to pass the agreement by August, because Korea has similar pacts going into effect this summer with the EU and others.


"Now, I think we are near the finish line," Han said. "We should make all efforts to put this through as soon as possible."


Approval of the agreement isn't certain. Several labour unions, including the Teamsters and AFL-CIO, oppose the trade deal, though it has support from the Obama administration. The unions compare it to the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and they say it will send more than 100,000 American jobs overseas.


Opponents of the deal also aren't happy that Korea limits American beef imports, though the treaty drops American tariffs on beef imported from Korea. The Langdon family also raises cattle, but Han didn't tour that operation.


Langdon told the visitors that the bulk of his profits come from pigs - he raises about 10,000 of them through a contract with Murphy-Brown and Smithfield Foods Inc. "The hog farm and the relationship with Murphy-Brown is what pays our bills here," Langdon said.

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