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S. Korea, China To Hold New Talks On Rice Market Opening
South Korea and China will hold another negotiation session this week for talks on the further opening of the former's rice market, government officials said Tuesday.

The meeting, to be held Wednesday in Beijing, is the sixth such one with China since negotiations began in May.

South Korea has held a series of bilateral talks with nine rice-exporting countries, including the United States, on an extension of its right to limit rice imports.

Under the 1994 agreement at the Uruguay Round talks, South Korea was granted the right to limit rice imports to 4 percent of total domestic consumption. Since then, the country has gradually increased rice imports to about 200,000 tons a year.

However, with the expiration of the multilateral trade pact this year, South Korea is required to decide either to raise its import quota or adopt a tariff system before the end of the year if it fails to extend its rights through individual negotiations with its trading partners.

Previous talks with China failed to make any breakthrough because of what South Korean officials called China's "excessive demands."

China is pressing South Korea to adopt a tariff system rather than increase the quota, hoping its cheap rice will appeal to Korean consumers. South Korean rice is priced about four times higher than Chinese rice.

But faced with fierce protests from local farmers, who fear cheap rice imports will hurt their livelihood, South Korea is adamant about extending its right to limit its rice imports by another 10 years.

South Korea is also under mounting pressure to put imported rice on retailers' shelves for direct purchase by consumers. It has limited the use of imported rice to bakery products and materials for soy and bean paste sauce for fear that it might damage the local market.

Ambassador Lee Jae-gil, Seoul's top diplomat for Doha Development Agenda negotiations, will lead a South Korean delegation comprising government officials and a university professor.
MGR Archive 2.11.2004
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