S. Korea posts huge trade deficit with U.S. on produce, meats

SEOUL-- South Korea posted a huge trade deficit with the United States on agricultural products and livestock last year as their price competitiveness has attracted consumers, government data showed Saturday.

South Korea's agricultural goods and meat exports to the U.S. reached US$716 million last year while imports amounted to $6.9 billion, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Seoul's trade deficit with the U.S. in the sector came in at $6.14 billion in 2016, the data showed.

The data came as the U.S. formally notified South Korea last week that it wants to start the process of revising the free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

South Korea has said that the trade deal, which went into effect in 2012, has been mutually beneficial. But Washington said it has had a persistent goods deficit with South Korea for nearly two decades.

Seoul's imports of U.S. agricultural goods such as corn and wheat reached $4.3 billion last year. It imported livestock, including beef and pork, worth $1.8 billion, it showed.

Beef topped the list of import goods from the U.S. with $1.03 billion in imports. Its market share came in at 48.4 percent in the January-May period, followed by that of Australian beef with 42.8 percent.

This year marked the first time that U.S. beef's market portion surpassed that of Australian beef in South Korea.

"U.S. beef is attracting South Korean consumers as its prices remain affordable when it comes to quality," said an official at the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

An official at South Korea's No. 1 discount retail outlet E-Mart said that fruits from the U.S. such as oranges and cherries took up the largest portion in shelves among imports.

"Consumers are increasingly buying U.S. fresh foods like lobster and meats," he said.

The Korea-U.S. FTA has widely been viewed as a symbol of the economic alliance between the two countries.

Experts said that even though the U.S. has a deficit in goods trade, the country has enjoyed surpluses in services trade under the deal, and U.S. deficits in goods trade would have been larger had it not been for the pact.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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