WASHINGTON – U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced today that they have reached agreement with the Republic of Korea to obtain greater market access opportunities for U.S. rice exporters. As a result of these negotiations, Korea will double the amount of rice it imports over the next 10 years, provide guaranteed access for 50,000 metric tons of U.S. rice each year, and make imported rice available directly to Korean consumers.
“In negotiating the agreement, we focused on improving the quantity and quality of the openings for U.S. rice exporters in the Korean market,” said Zoellick. “This will allow our competitive rice industry to make significant gains in the Korean market. Not only will U.S. rice imports increase, but the quality of access will be substantially improved -- Korean consumers will now be able to buy rice from the United States at the retail level.”
“This agreement will give U.S. farmers an opportunity to expand sales to Korea, and it will allow Korean consumers access to a high-quality American product. This marks yet another step in gaining greater access for our growers to expanding markets across the Asian region,” Veneman said.
To qualify for continued ‘special treatment’ under the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Korea is required to notify the WTO of the results of these negotiations by the end of this year. The terms agreed upon during the negotiation will be reviewed by WTO Members. If the Members approve these terms by consensus, Korea will implement them in 2005.
Under WTO rules established during the Uruguay Round, Korea designated rice as a sensitive product. Instead of liberalizing its rice import regime by establishing a tariff-rate quota, Korea committed to import a specific level of rice imports for a period of 10 years. That period ends on December 31, 2004. The WTO rules also provided that Korea’s market access quota for rice, known as “special treatment,” could continue for an additional length of time, but only after individual WTO Members had the opportunity to negotiate concessions in terms of how Korea would continue the ‘special treatment’ arrangement. Earlier this year, Korea notified its trading partners that it sought an extension of the ‘special treatment’ for rice, and the Korean government began negotiating with the United States and eight other countries that formally expressed interest.