The Korean government is expected to announce the full opening of the rice market on July 25, 20 years since the conclusion of the Uruguay Round.
Saenuri Party Policy Committee Chair Ju Ho-young said on July 15 that the government will convene an economic ministerial meeting on July 25 to make the final decision on the issue. “The choice will revolve around whether to import rice with the delayed tariffication abolished, or to double the minimum market access (MMA) while maintaining it,” he explained.
Korea has postponed the opening of the rice market since 1994 on the condition that it imports a certain amount of rice from the United States, China, etc. The MMA for this year is 409,000 tons, which is equivalent to 9 percent of Korea’s annual rice consumption.
The revision of the Grain Management Act, which has caused some jurisdictional controversy, is likely to be wrapped up during the meeting. Some agricultural organizations have claimed that the Grain Management Act be revised before the market opening to repeal the rice import licensing system.
Under the circumstances, attention is being paid to the tariff rate to be applied to imported rice. When the rate goes up, the price of imported rice increases, meaning farmers in Korea benefit. At present, the government is mulling over a tariff rate of about 400 percent, and is going to decide on it by September for report to the WTO. “Measures for the protection of the domestic rice market will be unveiled in the near future,” said the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
In the meantime, the Agriculture, Food, Rural Affairs, Oceans & Fisheries Committee of the National Assembly adopted a resolution unanimously for the protection of the domestic farming and fisheries industries during the course of the Korea-China FTA talks. According to the resolution, agro-fishery products expected to take a hit are classified as very sensitive items and the current tariffs of these items are advised to be maintained.