WASHINGTON – Once ratified, it is expected the US-Korea Trade Agreement (KORUS), which is currently pending before Congress, will expand US farm exports to South Korea by $1.8 billion, support thousands of new jobs in the US and help US agriculture compete against its competitors in the Asian marketplace.

"The US-Korea Trade Agreement represents an historic opportunity to increase exports, support job creation, and bolster the American economy, as well as strengthen a vital strategic alliance in the Asia-Pacific," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack earlier this week during a media conference. "Economic output is estimated to grow more under this agreement than from our last nine trade agreements combined. This agreement immediately eliminates duties on the majority of US farm products exported to Korea and eliminates duties over time on many others, including US beef.”

South Korea's 40% tariff on US beef will be eliminated over 15 years. In 2010, US beef exports to South Korea almost doubled compared to one year earlier. South Korea imported 125,000 tons of US beef in 2010, a 97% increase from the year before. However, US competitors aren’t standing idle. South Korea is currently negotiating a trade agreement with Australia, a major US competitor for the South Korean beef market, which may allow tariff cuts for Australian beef to take effect before those on US beef if ratification of the US-Korea agreement is delayed.

More than 90% of pork exports will also be duty-free by 2016 once KORUS is ratified.

In 2010, the US provided almost 30% of South Korea's total agricultural imports. In fiscal year 2010, US agricultural exports to South Korea totaled approximately $5 billion, making South Korea the fifth-largest export market for US farm products.

In little more than one decade, the US share of South Korea's import market for goods has plunged from 21% to 9%. At the same time, Asian countries are securing their own preferential trade agreements. Throughout the region, 180 bilateral agreements excluding the US are in force, 20 are awaiting implementation and 70 are under negotiation, Vilsack said.