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U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement to Take Effect March 15

Feb 22, 2012

United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced yesterday that the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement will take effect on March 15, providing a tremendous boost to U.S. dairy through reduced tariffs and expanded market opportunities in a historically restricted and high-value market. Envoys from each country met in Seattle over the weekend to review laws and regulations related to implementation and confirmed that everything was in place for the agreement’s entry into force.

Once implemented, the agreement will allow the U.S. dairy industry to gain tariff-free access for approximately 16,000 metric tons of cheese, milk powders, whey for food uses and other important dairy products. Tariffs on most dairy products will eventually be phased out over a period of 15 years.

The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that the dairy provisions of the agreement could expand U.S. dairy exports by up to $336 million per year on average. In 2011, the value of U.S. dairy exports to South Korea was over $222.3 million, up 70 percent from the previous year. South Korea currently constitutes the United States' sixth-largest export market for dairy and dairy products.

"IDFA thanks the administration and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk for their significant efforts throughout the negotiations and final steps leading up to implementation," said John Kelly, IDFA manager of international affairs. "IDFA considers the agreement to be a critical step forward for U.S. dairy processors to take full advantage of growing markets in a vital economic region."

South Korea is one of Asia's fastest growing economies, and global consumption patterns show that as income grows, the consumption of animal protein increases, including dairy. Per capita consumption of dairy products in South Korea is increasing in part due to the younger generation and an increasing penchant for Western foods.

Along with this growth, expanding wine consumption is expected to increase demand for a variety of high-quality cheeses. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, most increased demand will be met by imports because local production of cheese is constrained by the lack of manufacturing facilities. Thus, U.S. dairy exports are uniquely positioned to fill a specific consumer demand that local manufacturers are not able to supply.

For more information, contact Kelly at

Dairy Delivers