U.S. complains about South Korea trade barriers against U.S. fruit. ( File photo )

Trade barriers for U.S. fruit exports to South Korea are flies in the perfume of U.S.-Korea trade relations.

Despite the U.S. and South Korea reaching an agreement in principle on modifications to their existing 2007 trade pact, a trade barrier report published two days later raised U.S. complaints about South Korea’s trade restrictions for U.S. fresh produce.

A March 28 joint statement by the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Republic of Korea Minister for Trade Hyun Chong Kim said the two countries “have reached an agreement in principle on the general terms of amendments and modifications” to the free trade agreement.

The nations also agreed, according to the joint statement, on terms for a country exemption for the Republic of Korea from U.S. tariffs imposed on steel imports by President Donald Trump under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

Two days later, however, the U.S. Trade Representative issued the 500-page 2018 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers that said the U.S. is requesting access for U.S. for blueberries from states beyond Oregon, improvement in the cherry export program and Korean access for U.S. apples and pears, which are currently banned. The report said the two governments discussed those issues at bilateral meeting in November.

“The United States continues to press Korea to allow imports of these fruits from the U.S,” the report said.

The USTR report also said South Korea also has held up market access to U.S. fresh potatoes on the basis of restrictions related to the potato spindle tuber viroid (PSTVd), a disease that U.S. authorities say is not present in commercial U.S. potato production areas. The U.S. is seeking to remove that South Korean trade barrier to U.S. fresh potato exports, according to the USTR report.

According to the South Korea news website Hani.co.kr, U.S. mention of fruit access issues appeared to have surprised South Korean officials.

“Aside from the request for further opening of the fruit market, the USTR’s references to automobiles, pharmaceutical prices, country-of-origin verification, competition policy, digital commerce and other issues were similar to previous years,” the South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy told the Hani.co.kr.