A schedule of concessions and commitments was posted in the official gazette on January 22, completing procedures for tariffs on rice, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said in a statement.
Originally, South Korea imposed 513 percent tariffs on imported rice for quantities outside the obligatory quota of 409,000 tons of rice imports carrying a five percent tariff rate under the tariff-rate quota (TRQ) system meant to provide minimum market access. However, the U.S., China, Australia, Thailand and Vietnam lodged a protest through the World Trade Organization.
After five years of verification, the five countries endorsed South Korea's tariff rates in 2019, at least until the WTO works out new rules, probably reflecting dwindling rice consumption and strong objection by farmers in the domestic market. Of 409,000 tons to be imported under the annual TRQ system, South Korea allocated 388,700 tons to five countries under national quotas.
In October 2019, South Korea decided to give up preferential WTO treatment as a developing country, making a de facto declaration that it would be treated as a developed country in the international community. Until a new round of negotiations is concluded, South Korea will maintain its developing country status in imports of sensitive items such as rice.
Rice is still the main source of daily calories, but annual rice consumption has been on the decline, leading to a surge in the rice inventory. The government has provided subsidies to farms and purchased oversupplied rice as compensation for falling prices. State warehouses are packed with rice reserves, far higher than 800,000 tons recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organization.
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