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Seoul, Beijing near to compromise over rice
The Korea Times, December 2, 2004
South Korea and China in Beijing on Wednesday tentatively agreed that Korea will suspend free imports for another 10 years until 2014 while gradually increasing obligatory imports to 8 percent of total domestic consumption, the government said.

The two sides also agreed that Korea would sell 20 percent of imports to consumers, which had been a knotty issue. So far, foreign rice is not sold to consumers but is used in processing and given to North Korea as aid.

Under the initial 10-year moratorium on the opening of the rice market reached in 1994 at the multilateral Uruguay Round talks, Korea has been increasing the amount of imported rice every year, hitting 4 percent of total domestic consumption in 2004.

If the differences are ironed out by the end of this year, it is expected that Korea will be able to put off the opening of the rice market until 2014, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

But instead of another 10-year moratorium, Korea will have to increase imports of foreign rice over the next decade, ultimately to 8 percent of total domestic consumption.

China, the United States and Thailand are major exporters of rice to Korea.

The government plans to negotiate with the U.S., Thailand and other rice exporting nations based on the near agreement with China.

Over the last few months, China has pressed Korea to open its rice market completely with high tariffs rather than increasing mandatory imports, believing its rice to be competitive in the Korean market due to cheap production prices. The local market price of rice is about four times higher than that of the Chinese product.

However, some researchers claim it would be better for Korea to open the rice market completely and impose high tariffs rather than accept mandatory imports of 8 percent.
MGR Archive 2.12.2004
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