The U.S. government wants to keep pressuring Korea to scrap curbs on beef imports. The U.S. is expected to get more aggressive this year as it stands to have its status upgraded in terms of the risk of mad cow disease.
Korea allows only imports of U.S. beef from cattle younger than 30 months to restore consumer trust.
The U.S. Trade Representative in its 2013 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers on Monday pledged to push for the full opening of the Korean beef market based on guidelines by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
The annual report lists conditions faced by U.S. exports to 61 trading partners, including Korea, Japan and the EU. The report stresses that Seoul's decision after beef talks in 2008 to allow only imports from cattle younger than 30 months old was a "temporary" measure.
But the Korean government does not expect significant changes since the USTR made the same pledge last year and nothing much happened. But a diplomatic source in Washington sees things differently this time.
"The U.S.' status is likely to be upgraded from 'controlled' to 'negligible' risk at the general meeting of the OIE this May, which means there is a greater need to be wary," the source said.
Under a bilateral agreement, Seoul is required to respond within seven days if Washington requests negotiations and vice versa.
U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler and Deputy Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis told reporters early this year that they intend to seek additional market opening since it has been five years since Seoul and Washington concluded the beef talks and Korea's imports of American beef have risen steadily.
Vice Agriculture Minister Yeo In-hong on Tuesday said Seoul does not intend to revise existing rules since public trust has not yet fully recovered from mad cow scares five years ago.