U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick and Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced the Republic of Korea has agreed to provide greater market access opportunities for U.S. rice exporters.

As a result of these negotiations, Korea will double the amount of rice it imports over the next 10 years, provide guaranteed access for 50,000 metric tons of U.S. rice each year, and make imported rice available directly to Korean consumers, according to administration officials.

“We focused on improving the quantity and quality of the openings for U.S. rice exporters in the Korean market,” said Zoellick. “This will allow our rice industry to make significant gains in the Korean market. Not only will U.S. exports increase, but the quality of access will be improved — Korean consumers will now be able to buy U.S. rice at the retail level.”

“This agreement will give U.S. farmers an opportunity to expand sales to Korea, and it will allow Korean consumers access to a high-quality American product. This marks yet another step in gaining greater access for our growers to expanding markets across the Asian region,” Veneman said.

Now that Korea has notified the WTO of the result of its negotiations with the United States, the next stage in the process will be a review of this notification by other WTO members, Rue said. He noted that the WTO member review process is just beginning and that the USA Rice Federation will follow it closely.

Under the Uruguay Round, Korea designated rice as a sensitive product. Instead of liberalizing its rice import regime by establishing a tariff-rate quota, Korea committed to import a specific level of rice imports for a period of 10 years.

The WTO rules also provided that Korea's market access quota for rice, known as “special treatment,” could continue for an additional length of time, but only after individual WTO members had the opportunity to negotiate concessions in terms of how Korea would continue the special treatment arrangement.