Korea to Keep Farm Produce Out of FTA with China

      March 16, 2012 09:19

      Seoul will exclude agricultural and fishery products from free trade negotiations with Beijing. The government wants to make sure damage to farmers and fishermen from a free trade agreement with China is minimal, amid fears that cheaper Chinese products would swamp the Korean market if tariffs are dropped.

      In the first round of the bilateral FTA talks, which are slated to start soon, the government will focus on dividing goods into those that will benefit from tariff reductions and so-called sensitive items. "This time, sensitive items shouldn't be subject to tariff negotiations," a senior government official said. "We can't conduct the talks unless China accepts that."

      According to the finance and agriculture ministries, Korean chilli pepper, garlic and onion farmers would suffer the most if the high protective tariffs on cheaper imports from China are reduced. The current market access volume -- the permissible volume of imports at a low tariff rate -- of chilli peppers is 7,185 tons a year. A 10-50 percent tariff is imposed on chilli peppers until the import volume reaches this ceiling, but then it jumps to 270 percent. The same applies for garlic, where the ceiling is 14,467 tons and the tariff jumps to 360 percent.

      In case of fishery products, relatively low tariffs are imposed on live fish (10 percent), cold-storage fish (20 percent), and frozen fish (10 percent). But Seoul will ask Beijing to exclude most of them from negotiations as well given the price competitiveness of the Chinese industry.

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