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Korea to start rice talks with U.S.
The Korea Herald, August 12, 2004
The Korean government on Friday will start a third round of negotiations with the United States to liberalize the rice market, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said yesterday.

The ministry said the delegates will meet U.S. trade representatives in Washington and discuss possible changes to Korea's rice import policy. At present, Korea uses a quota to cap imports to 4 percent of the domestic market.

The U.S., the second-largest rice exporter to Korea, wants Seoul to abolish the protectionist system and switch to a tariff policy. The change would allow foreign rice to enter the market freely without quota restrictions.

Washington officials have also demanded that U.S. rice be given "substantial" access to Korean consumers. Rice imports to Korea have been reserved solely for processed food and are practically unavailable to the average shopper.

Officials here declined to comment on the coming negotiations.

"How to tackle the rice issue with the U.S. should be kept confidential at this point. Any information about the ongoing discussion can affect negotiation with other rice-exporting countries," said a deputy director at the Agriculture Ministry.

Nine rice-growing countries, including the United States and China, are holding talks with Korea to change the nation's import system. Ministry officials said further negotiations with other countries have yet to be scheduled.

The Korean government is pursuing an extension for its quota system, out of fear that opening the market will seriously hurt local rice farmers. Rice prices on the international market are only around 25 percent of Korea's.
MGR Archive 12.8.2004
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