The US government has launched free trade agreement negotiations with South Korea. Economy-wide, Korea is the United States’ seventh-largest trading partner in terms of two- way trade and fifth-largest market for US agricultural goods, while the United States is Korea’s second-largest trading partner and its largest source of foreign direct investment.

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the US Dairy Export Council (USDEC) have written to US Trade Representative Robert Portman in support of this decision to move forward with discussions with Korea, a release said yesterday (2 January).

“This country is one of strategic importance to the US dairy industry and we welcome this undertaking,” said Jerry Kozak, President and CEO of NMPF. “Not all trade agreements are in American dairy producers’ best interests; but a properly negotiated deal with Korea would provide us with an expansion in US dairy exports.”

Despite heavy market access barriers to dairy imports, the US exported US$46m of dairy products to Korea in 2004. Last year saw a significant expansion in US dairy shipments to Korea, likely totalling approximately $58m for 2005. Korea provides very attractive growth potential for U.S. dairy exports, particularly for cheeses, said Tom Suber, president of USDEC.