The US and South Korea today (9 January) embarked on talks which may result in the opening of South Korean borders to imports of US beef.

Details of the negotiations have not as yet been made public, but it has been reported that the two-day meeting was not expected to result in the immediate resumption of trade.

The two-year long ban was imposed by the South Korean Government in December 2003 in response to fears that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) had contaminated US beef stocks after the disease was detected in Washington State. Prior to the ban, South Korea was the third-largest market for US beef.

A sticking point in the negotiations looks set to be connected to South Korea’s concerns that some material inside bones could be dangerous to consume. South Korea has stated that it would discuss importing boneless meat only, however, US beef ribs had accounted for more than 60% of imports before the ban came into effect.