10/25/2019, 13.10
SOUTH KOREA
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Seoul gives up developing country status

The US has long been pushing for changes to WTO rules. Asia's fourth largest economy, South Korea, had kept this status since 1995 to protect its sensistive farming sector. Accusing the government of foregoing “sovereignty in trade and food”, farmers pledge strong opposition.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – This morning South Korea decided to give up its developing country status at  the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Seoul's announcement comes as US President Donald Trump tries to ensure that self-declared developing countries like China do not benefit from special status treatment.

Washington has sought an overhaul of the rules of the Geneva-based trade body by mid-October.

As Asia's fourth largest economy, South Korea has maintained its status as a developing country since 1995 to protect its sensitive farming sector, especially rice.

This morning Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki (picture 1) said there is little chance that the international community can recognise South Korea as a developing country in future WTO negotiations, noting that a delay in South Korea's decision could undermine its negotiating power.

The issue of the developing country privileges is about future multilateral negotiations, meaning that South Korea's agricultural subsidies (about US$ 10 billion) and tariffs (513 per cent tariff on imported rice above 409,000 tonnes of rice imports per year from the US) won't be affected even if Seoul decides to forgo that status.

“We have enough time and resources to brace for the impact that could be caused by future negotiations,” Hong said.

South Korean farmers are not convinced and took to the streets in Seoul (picture 2) demanding the government change its decision.

“If we give up the developing country status, we will have to cut the agricultural subsidies by half, and the United States will pressure the country to further open its agricultural market,” said a coalition of 33 farmers' lobbies and NGOs in a statement read in front of the government complex in central Seoul.

They accuse the government of foregoing “sovereignty in trade and food”.

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