USAgNet - 05/03/2006
South Korea, Asean to Cut Ag Tarrifs for FTA
South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed on agricultural tariff-cutting measures to help facilitate a free trade agreement (FTA), a government official said Wednesday.
The two sides, which reached the agreement at talks held last week in Cambodia, plan to sign a formal agreement on the matter this month when representatives meet in the Philippines.
"Under the deal, South Korea designated 200 agricultural products that will be exempt from tariff reductions due to their effect on local farmers," said Bae Jong-ha, head of the International Agriculture Bureau at the Agriculture Ministry.
He said most ASEAN countries agreed to allow Seoul to hold onto tariffs on 40 "super sensitive" products, while gradually reducing duties on others in the coming years.
"Rice, chili peppers, garlic, beef, certain pork products, chicken, pineapples, apples and pears are among the exceptions to tariff cuts," the official said.
Bae added that Seoul will maintain the existing level of tariffs on products such as ginseng, powered milk and sweet potatoes until 2015, before cutting tariffs by 20 per cent starting in 2016. He said the same grace period will apply to corn and orange juice, but the rate of cuts will reach 50 per cent of present levels.
On the impact that lower tariffs will have on the agricultural sector, Bae said the ongoing Doha Development Agenda talks were already calling for sizeable tariff cuts, so any similar agreements with ASEAN would not cause further problems.