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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Free-Trade Pact Stuck on Beef

SEOUL, South Korea -- A potential free-trade agreement between the United States and South Korea hinges on something not even officially part of the intense negotiations: the complete resumption of U.S. beef imports to the world's 10th-largest economy.

"These are separate discussions from the FTA," Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler said Friday, referring to so far unsuccessful efforts to get U.S. beef back onto the plates of South Korean consumers.

"But as the United States has made clear from day one of these negotiations, in order for the FTA to happen we're going to need to see a full reopening of Korea's beef market," she told reporters.

In addition to being Washington's chief negotiator in the effort to forge a free trade deal with South Korea, Cutler is also responsible for bilateral trade issues with the country, the United States' seventh-largest trading partner.

She brought the issue to the fore this week, repeating several times that unless U.S. beef was allowed back in restaurants and supermarkets there would be no free trade agreement.

Cutler and her negotiating team held five days of negotiations with their South Korean counterparts, their sixth round of negotiations since June.

They remain divided on key issues including anti-dumping provisions, automobiles and pharmaceuticals. They plan to meet again next month in Washington.

If achieved, it would be the biggest deal for the United States since the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1993.