[EDITORIALS]Blockade an empty gestureAfter the use of physical force by the Democratic Labor Party, the ratification bill on rice negotiations again failed to pass. The Democratic Labor Party forcibly occupied the conference room of the trade committee of the National Assembly, stopping the conference itself from beginning. Following this blockade, it is now difficult to say whether the bill can be ratified within this regular session of the National Assembly. In a recently held public hearing, the two sides showed unyielding confrontation.
The Democratic Labor Party and farmers’ groups take the stance that it’s not too late to wait for the Doha Development Agenda agricultural negotiations and then deal with the bill. They claim the delay can bring another factor to block rice imports. At this, the government counters, saying, “If the ratification bill does not pass soon, we cannot administer rice imports of 225,000 ton, which we have already promised to do. It can only lead to a serious situation.” If the ratification is postponed until next year or other countries start to take issue with South Korea not keeping its promise on rice imports, it’s likely to bring the worst result of a tariff levy.
Reflecting on the development of the Doha Development Agenda negotiations, which are now in the works, the current ratification bill appears to be more advantageous for our side, because we get in return another 10-year delay of the flat tariff system. If the Doha Development Agenda decides to set the maximum flat tariff and a 75 percent tariff is levied as some countries claim, Korean rice will lose all its competitive power. Korean rice per bag now costs about 150,000 won ($140), but imported rice at no more than 70,000 won per bag will flood into the market.
The pressure to open our agricultural markets is inevitably intensifying. Even if the ratification bill is passed, in 2014, Korea must import 7.9 percent of the country’s rice consumption. It remains in question whether others will comply with our wishes to renegotiate. Now is not the time to jump on the bandwagon of farmers’ sentiment and to postpone the ratification bill. We are running out of time to ready for the market’s opening.
Since the 1993 Uruguay Round negotiations, 7 billion won has been injected over the past 10 years, but the agricultural power has only been stepping back. The Democratic Labor Party has to think calmly, over what truly is a way to help farmers. It’s nothing but an empty political gesture, when they were looking on during the negotiation process, to belatedly upset everything.