DENVER – The Obama Administration’s recent announcement it intends to press forward on Congressional ratification of the pending U.S.-Korea Free-Trade Agreement (F.T.A.) is encouraging news for the U.S. Meat Export Federation (U.S.M.E.F.). Korean tariffs are currently 40% on U.S. beef and 25% on most U.S. pork products.

The F.T.A. will phase out tariffs on U.S. beef over the course of 15 years, while tariffs would be eliminated on frozen and processed U.S. pork by 2014 and on chilled pork within 10 years.

Ratifying the U.S.-Korea F.T.A. is especially urgent because foreign competitors are rapidly gaining an advantage in this key market, said Keith Miller, U.S.M.E.F. chairman-elect, a farmer-stockman from Great Bend, Kan. Korea recently completed its fifth round of F.T.A. negotiations with Australia, which is its largest foreign provider of beef. Chile, which already has an F.T.A. in place that has lowered the tariffs assessed by Korea, has captured 14% of Korea’s imported pork market and Chile’s pork exports to Korea have increased 22% compared to last year.

In terms of value, Korea is this year’s fourth-largest destination for U.S. beef exports (through April, $112.3 million) and fifth-largest for U.S. pork ($69.5 million). The U.S. is Korea’s largest foreign provider of pork and second-largest provider of beef.