October 14, 2011
On 12 October 2011, Canadian Agriculture Minister, Gerry Ritz, announced that Canada would turn the issue of the South Korean ban on Canadian beef products over to the World Trade Organization (WTO) if the issue is not resolved by the end of 2011.
In December 2003, South Korea imposed a ban on the import of beef products from North America, following the confirmation of a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease. In May 2007, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) categorized Canada as a ‘Controlled Risk’ country for BSE, reconfirming the status in 2008 and 2009.
However, in July 2008 the South Korean ban on beef imports from the United States was lifted. The ban on Canadian exports was maintained. In April 2009, Canada filed at the WTO a Request for Consultations and in July 2009 a WTO Dispute Settlement Panel was established. A ruling was expected in July 2011, however, both sides agreed to suspend the WTO process while negotiations continued.
The South Korean ban on Canadian beef imports is a major irritant in the bilateral relationship. The issue is also tied to the passage of the Korea-United States (KORUS) Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which will allow the United States to further strengthen its market position as beef import duties are steadily lowered over the life of the agreement. Canada and South Korea have been negotiating a free-trade agreement since 2005, but progress has been limited.
Until the imposition of the import ban, South Korea was Canada’s fourth-largest market for beef.