The United States, China and other rice-exporting countries are opposing South Korea's move to levy a 513 percent tariff on imported rice, saying the rate is too high.
Korea Times reported that the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, contends that the U.S., China, Australia, Thailand and Vietnam objections filed with the World Trade Organization (WTO) about the nation's new tariff rate on rice imports is not appropriate.
"The five rice-exporting countries filed a complaint with the WTO against our 513 percent tariff," said Kim Kyung-mee, director of the ministry's agriculture trade division. "They claimed the way we calculated the rate was incorrect. But what they really want to say is the 513 percent rate is too high."
The news reporter, Lee Hyo-sik, noted for the past 20 years, South Korea, as Asia's fourth-largest economy, imported a certain amount of rice every year under the minimum market access (MMA) program, in exchange for a waiver. In 2014, the nation was obliged to import 408,700 tons of rice, about 10 percent of its annual rice consumption of 4.1 million tons. To delay the opening of the rice market, Korea would have to increase the MMA quota this year.
Without objections, the WTO would issue a certificate allowing South Korea to levy the tariff, but with objections to receive WTO approval, Korea will be negotiating with the five countries. Those negotiations notoriously have taken years; it was 57 months for Taiwan negotiations to liberalize its rice markets, according to Hyo-sik.
Meanwhile, the tariff went into effect January 1 and will stay in place, according to government directors.
Even after all the negotiations with Taiwan, Hyo-sik reports, the country’s tariff was 563 percent, and Japan’s tariff is the highest at 1,066 percent.