S. Korea sets import rice tariff rate at 513 pct



South Korea decided to set an import tariff rate on rice, which will be imposed from 2015 when the country's rice market is opened completely, at 513 percent, and to launch negotiations with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to conclude it, the agriculture ministry said Thursday.

The decision will be reported to the parliament and notified to the WTO within this month, before receiving the WTO's verification process from October, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

The tariff rate, which a government sets, is subject to a verification process by WTO member nations, and it takes around three months. Unless the process is completed in the three-month period, the government-set rate is first imposed.

To brace for a surge in rice imports from next year's market opening, special safeguard will be levied on excessive rice imports. Furthermore, rice will be excluded from negotiations on liberalization during all the upcoming free trade talks like in the past negotiations, the ministry said.

Despite the market opening, the mandatory import quota of 408, 700 tons subject to a five percent tariff rate will be maintained.

South Korea has been exempted from liberalizing its rice market for 20 years from 1995 due to the 1994 Uruguay Round of trade negotiations. The exemption is set to expire by the end of this year.

Seoul chose to open the rice market as a further delay of tariffication was feared to cause a surge in mandatory rice import quota.

The postponed rice market opening forced South Korea to import 408,700 tons of foreign rice this year under the minimum market access (MMA) framework, an increase of some 20,000 tons a year in the past 20 years.

Another 10-year delay would lift the mandatory import quota to 820,000 tons, the government said. It would take up about 18 percent of the country's annual rice consumption. The quota will be retained even after opening the market.