The Korean government started the discussion of tariffs with the expiration of the tariffs scheduled for the end of this year. Economic experts are saying that this is a measure to respond to criticism from farming households and lawmakers representing rural areas. The government had promised to reach a conclusion on tariffs by late last year, but the deadline was delayed to June this year.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Yeo In-hong held a meeting about this issue on March 24 and discussed the current trends in the domestic rice market, the potential impact of the tariffs reduction, and measures to support farming households.
The tariff reduction plan was postponed for Korea for 10 years from the Uruguay Round negotiations in 1993. Instead, it was subject to minimum market access (MMA), obliged to import a certain amount of rice each year. In 2004, the postponement of the tariff imposition was extended for another decade, on the condition that the minimum import amount be increased.
Although the government has yet to come up with its official stance on the matter, the market consensus is that the tariff will be unavoidable from 2015. Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Lee Dong-pil said that he would finalize the discussions by the end of 2013 in October last year, but then withdrew the remark. He announced back in March this year again that the official announcement would be available before June, when the regional elections are over. Still, it may be too late, allowing for the fact that the government is required to report whether or not to initiate the tariff reductions, along with the tariff rate, by September.