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South Korea: No More Talks on U.S. Beef Imports

South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jon Hoon closed the door on future talks with the U.S. on age limits on American beef imports, Bloomberg reported Monday .

The current South Korean free trade agreement awaiting ratification by the Senate does not revise current limits.

“It is our government’s firm position that there is no room for further discussions on it,” Kim said Monday in an interview with KBS radio in Seoul, adding that he hopes the agreement will take effect in January 2012.

The U.S. beef industry has worked feverishly to get back into South Korea without restrictions on exports ever since 2003 when the country banned American beef after a cow was found infected with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, in Washington state.

Five years after the ban was imposed, the South Korean government relaxed the restrictions to prohibit meat only from cows older than 30 months, which are perceived to be at higher risk of mad cow disease.

Though thousands of Koreans protested in the streets of Seoul after the import restrictions were relaxed, U.S. beef exports to Korea more than doubled in the first eight months of 2010. 

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