OTTAWA, Ontario – One major step has been taken toward restoring access for Canadian beef in South Korea with the South Korean Parliament ratifying the import health requirements for Canadian beef, under 30 months of age, announced Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and International Trade Minister Ed Fast late last week. This step is one of the final ones before Canadian beef can re-enter the South Korean marketplace.

This action is the result of a long journey and [last week’s] announcement is a big step forward for our hard-working beef producers to once again bring their world-class product to the South Korean marketplace, Ritz said.

"I recently raised this issue with my South Korean counterpart at the World Trade Organization,” Fast said. “Canada has closely monitored South Korea's domestic process and we are working towards complete access being restored.”

South Korea banned Canadian beef and beef products following Canada's first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) being discovered in May 2003. After years of emphasizing there is no scientific basis for the ban, Canada requested a WTO) Panel to review South Korea's ban on Canadian beef.

Ritz and Fast announced a breakthrough in restoring access bilaterally last June. Both governments signed off on a process to restore access by the end of 2011. After this agreement was reached, Canada formally requested a suspension of the WTO proceedings.

The process to restore access is now close to conclusion. On Dec. 30, the South Korean National Assembly deliberated the issue and passed the Import Health Requirements (IHRs) for Canadian beef. South Korea’s government still has to promulgate the IHRs early this year, then issue a list of approved beef establishments for export and formally accept the import health certificates. Since this move is anticipated to happen early in 2012, South Korea's progress meets timelines established. As a result, the WTO Panel remains suspended.

Canada Beef Inc. estimates the lucrative South Korean beef market could be worth $30 million (US$29.5 million) to Canadian producers by 2015. This nation the last major Asian market banning Canadian beef. South Korea was Canada's fourth-largest beef market in 2002.