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The Wall Street Journal reports on an agreement that will eliminate the ban on the import of US beef into South Korea, a ban that was put in place in 2003 because of concerns about mad cow disease.

The deal will lead to the “full reopening of the market” by mid-May, and reportedly is part of a process that will get the US Congress to take action on a free-trade deal with South Korea – a deal that was pretty much in limbo until the beef controversy got resolved.

Expectations are that the South Korean market could be worth $1 billion a year to US cattle exporters.

However, the deal also takes place in an environment increasingly unfriendly to trade deals. The WSJ writes, “Many lawmakers complain the deal doesn't fully open the Korean market to American-made autos -- an issue critical to powerful auto-state lawmakers such as House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Michigan).

“More broadly, skepticism about the benefits of globalization has taken root on Capitol Hill as U.S. economic growth has sagged. Anxiety that free trade is costing American workers their jobs is a central issue in the Democratic presidential campaign, with both Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama expressing reservations about free trade as they woo blue collar voters."
KC's View:
Putting the broader free trade issue aside for a moment, I want to know what the over-under is on when another case of mad cow disease in the US will start shutting down all these markets yet again, reigniting the debate about whether the US does a good enough job of tracking and testing for mad cow.