OTTAWA, Ontario – A breakthrough has been achieved in restoring long-awaited access of Canadian beef to the lucrative South Korean beef market. Canada and South Korea will now work to finalize their science-based agreement to export Canadian beef, under 30 months of age, back into South Korea – the last key Asian market still imposing a trade ban on Canadian beef, said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and International Trade Minister Ed Fast.

"South Korea, as one of Canada's most important trade and investment partners in the Asia-Pacific region, offers tremendous opportunity for workers and businesses in important sectors across Canada," said Fast. "This important step towards restored access is welcome news. On behalf of Canadian producers we will be closely monitoring South Korea's domestic process."

Canada and South Korea have resolved technical issues and will continue to collaborate until the commercially viable agreement is fully implemented. South Korea will begin its domestic process of submitting the proposed import health requirements, which includes public consultations and legislative approval, on June 28. Canadian and South Korean officials will continue to work closely to ensure the remaining elements of the process are completed.

The Canadian Beef Export Federation (CBEF) estimates this agreement could mean more than $30 million for Canadian producers by 2015. In 2002, South Korea was Canada's fourth biggest beef market and remains a key market for the Canadian agriculture sector.

Minister Ritz has travelled to South Korea twice to push for the removal of this trade barrier by delivering a strong message that Canada maintains a "controlled BSE risk" status by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) allowing safe trade of beef.

After Canada's numerous attempts to negotiate access to South Korea for Canadian beef, Canada requested the establishment of a WTO panel in August 2009. Although confident in its WTO case against South Korea, Canada continued to negotiate a possible bilateral settlement that would provide commercially viable access to South Korea.

With the proposed, commercially viable technical agreement achieved with South Korea, Canada will formally request a suspension of the ongoing WTO Panel proceedings once South Korea submits the import health requirements for public consultation on June 28, 2011, with remaining steps to take place in the coming months.