USDA, farm businesses head to South Korea in trade mission

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said on Friday it will lead a trade delegation of farm organizations and businesses to South Korea, in an apparent effort to boost opportunities for U.S. farmers in a key U.S. export market.

The planned visit, scheduled for Nov. 5-8, comes after the United States and South Korea signed a revised free trade agreement on Sept. 24 and at a time when American farmers have been struggling due to the absence of Chinese buyers, their largest export market, due to a trade war between Washington and Beijing.

USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) Administrator Ken Isley will be heading the mission with nearly 50 U.S. agriculture businesses which will hold one-to-one meetings with potential customers.

“Korea is consistently among the largest and most reliable export markets for U.S. agriculture and the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, known as KORUS, has opened up even greater opportunities,” Isley said in a statement.

South Korea was the seventh biggest export market for the United States in 2017, according to figures from the office of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), with U.S. exports to the country totaling $48.3 billion last year.

U.S. farmers have been hit hard by the Trump administration’s ongoing trade dispute with China, which has shut off billions of dollars’ worth of agricultural trade between the giant economies.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue last month said the United States had probably made a mistake in becoming too trade dependent on China and that the administration was pursuing trade deals elsewhere to diversify its export markets.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by James Dalgleish