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Opening the Rice Market?

Posted September. 09, 2004 21:47,   


China’s tall order has stalled negotiations between itself and Korea on opening the rice market. It is known that the Korean government is now carefully considering opening the rice market completely through a tariff, instead of delaying it.

Concerns are rising that Korea might see another trade friction similar to the one over importing Chinese garlic, which was a major negotiation failure for Korea.

During the three rounds of talks, China requested that Korea increase the mandatory rice import quota and expand rice import from China in exchange for delaying a tariff, the Ministries of Agriculture and Forestry (MOAF), and Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) said on Thursday.

Government officials did not elaborate on the Chinese requests, but it has been known that China demanded lowering tariffs on agricultural products except rice and easing quarantine procedures.

Some points out that the current situation resembles the trade friction over Chinese garlic. China threatened not to import Korean mobile phones if Korea did not increase garlic imports from China.

“China seems to think that the Korean government cannot open its rice market completely through a tariff system in fear of the farmers’ backlash,” said Seo Jin-gyo, researcher at the Korea Rural Economic Institute. “It is making unreasonable demands with that in mind.”

MOFAT’s Negotiating Ambassador for Doha Development Agenda (DDA) Lee Jae-gil said at a recent press conference, “We are negotiating to delay rice imports through a tariff, but we may reconsider our position when our counterparts request too much from us.”

His remarks were understood to be that the government may open the rice market through a tariff.

Meanwhile, the government sent a negotiation team, headed by Ambassador Lee, to Washington D.C. on Thursday for the fourth round of talks with the U.S. The negotiation with China will start on September 14.

“We face daunting challenges since our counterparts are asking too much in return for the tariff delay,” said Kyungbook National University’s Professor Kim Chung-sil, who will join the team recommended by the agriculture community. “We plan to operate a supporting group for agriculture negotiation, which will be comprised of ruling and opposition lawmakers, and farmers’ organizations. The group will seek national consensus on how much we can concede to our negotiating partners.”

Ji-Wan Cha cha@donga.com