WELLINGTON, N.Z. — This week, the fourth round of negotiations being held with Korea are an important step towards a free-trade agreement (F.T.A.) with a key export market for New Zealand’s red-meat sector, said Dr. Scott Champion, Meat & Wool New Zealand chief executive.

“Meat & Wool New Zealand invests farmer levies in activities that protect, maintain and grow opportunities for the sector, and F.T.A.’s are critical to providing improved access to markets and ensuring the ongoing competitiveness of New Zealand sheep and beef exports in key markets,” Mr. Champion said. “Korea is already New Zealand’s third-largest market for beef by volume, importing over 30,000 tonnes last year. It is also a market where we face high tariff and technical barriers to trade.”

Korea is also an important export destination for U.S. and Australian red meat and co-products, Mr. Champion said. “The United States has already concluded F.T.A. negotiations with Korea, and Australia is currently in F.T.A. negotiations, so a potential New Zealand-Korea F.T.A. will enable New Zealand meat exporters to compete on a level playing field.”

Meat & Wool New Zealand supports the New Zealand Government’s F.T.A. negotiations by providing background information and analysis on the sheep and beef sector that negotiators use when they discuss market access for agricultural products.

“We are also actively looking to capitalize on any new opportunities that will benefit our farmers in the future,” Mr. Champion said. “Our promotional work in Korea focuses on creating demand and premium positioning, by differentiating New Zealand grass-fed beef from the products offered by key competitors, enhancing awareness of New Zealand grass-fed beef among consumers, and positioning it as inherently distinct from other beef supplied to the market.”

This week, Meat & Wool New Zealand is participating in Seoul Food & Hotel, Korea’s largest food and beverage exhibition.

“A presence at the show provides direct exposure to foodservice suppliers, allows them to sample the product, and secures media coverage to further heighten awareness of New Zealand grass-fed beef,” Mr. Champion said. “Samples of New Zealand grass-fed beef dishes will be available at the Meat & Wool New Zealand stand and in the general tasting section of the New Zealand pavilion, which will be operated by 2009 and 2010 Beef + Lamb New Zealand ambassador chef Darren Wright.”

The Meat & Wool New Zealand stand features displays of chilled and frozen grass-fed beef cuts available in Korea, and a range of Korean-language materials promoting New Zealand grass-fed beef will be distributed to visitors, Mr. Champion said.