| SEOUL, June 30
SEOUL, June 30 South Korea has delayed a
decision on how it will open its rice markets to allow more time
to consult with farmers and the public, senior government
officials said on Monday.
Deputy Trade Minister Choi Kyong-lim told reporters in a
briefing that a policy decision, originally expected in June,
would come after a public hearing held by a parliamentary
The timing of the hearing, which would follow previous
rounds of public consultation, is yet to be set.
"A cabinet meeting later today was set to discuss the policy
decision but no decision will be unveiled as the government now
wants to listen to more views from farmers," said another
With the country's 20-year-old agreement with the World
Trade Organistaion allowing Seoul to cap exports set to expire
at year-end, the government is under international pressure to
begin opening its rice markets to more foreign competition.
It is understood to favour switching to a system of high
tariffs rather than increasing quotas and negotiating to extend
the cap system.
While such a move would be unlikely to spark a surge in rice
imports as hefty tariffs would deter buyers from making overseas
purchases, it would mark a key psychological shift in a
politically-sensitive sector, with farmers fretting it could
pave the way towards lower duty down the line.
China and the United States account for the bulk of rice
shipments to South Korea.
(Reporting by Meeyoung Cho; Editing by Joseph Radford)