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Protecting Korean farmers key goal of FTA talks with China

Korea Overseas Information Service | 29 October 2007

Protecting Korean farmers key goal of FTA talks with China

Protecting Korean farmers will be a key goal in free trade talks with China, the government said Monday (Oct. 29).

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said Seoul stressed the need to reflect the concerns of local farmers in any future free trade agreement (FTA) at preliminary discussions held in Weihai, China, last week.

The third joint meeting is designed to examine both the benefits and costs of a bilateral FTA before formal negotiations begin.

Korea has 3.3 million farmers, about 6.8 percent of its population. Limited farmland, high labor costs and the advanced age of farmers have resulted in Korean-grown produce being more expensive that that sold on the international market. About 60 percent of all Korean farmers are over 50.

"Korean officials explained to their Chinese counterparts the difficulties of local agriculture, and emphasized that farm goods must be classified as ’sensitive’ materials before any FTA talks can begin," said a ministry official.

If farm goods are classified as sensitive materials, they could be exempt from FTA rules or be allowed to retain certain tariff levels.

Imports of Chinese agricultural products shot up 52.2 percent year-on-year to $1.66 billion in the first nine month of 2007 from 1.09 billion in the same period last year.

Korea is a net importer of farm goods with China being the second largest exporter after the United States.

Currently Seoul has FTAs with Chile, Singapore, the European Free Trade Association and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It signed a deal with the United States on June 30 that is awaiting ratification, and is pursuing similar agreements with the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

 source: KOIS