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S. Korea to hold rice talks with Thailand Friday
Asia Pulse, September 16, 2004
South Korea will hold a new round of discussions on further opening of its rice market with Thailand on Friday, the Agriculture Ministry said Thursday.

The meeting in Bangkok, the fourth of its kind, will serve as a venue for the two sides to negotiate whether South Korea can maintain its right to keep rice imports within 4 per cent of domestic consumption, the ministry said.

Along with China, Thailand has pressed South Korea to fully liberalize the rice market because it believes its rice holds a comparative advantage. The price of Thai rice is about three or four times lower than that of South Korea's.

Ambassador Lee Jae-gil, Seoul's top diplomat for Doha Development Agenda negotiations, will lead a South Korean delegation comprising government officials and a private-sector economist.

Because the 1994 Uruguay Round trade pact expires this year, South Korea is required to raise its import quota or adopt a tariff system by the end of 2004 if it fails to extend its right to prevent most imports of the grain.

Government officials here implicitly admit that South Korea will have to raise its import quota beyond 4 per cent or shift to a tariff system, despite protests from local farmers. They just hope to negotiate better terms in either case.

But they are adamant that South Korea will not link the rice issue to other trade items or deals, suggesting that a few countries asked for a tradeoff during previous negotiations.

This year's rice market negotiations are being held separately from the World Trade Organization Doha Development Agenda talks. WTO members launched a new round of trade talks in Doha, Qatar in 2001, with the end of 2004 as the deadline.
MGR Archive 16.9.2004
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