Dropping WTO special treatment can be new chance for S. Korean agriculture: prime minister

SEOUL-- Trying to assuage South Korean farmers' fury over the government's decision to abandon developing country status at the World Trade Organization (WTO), Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon on Tuesday called for efforts to turn it into an opportunity to upgrade the local agricultural sector.

Last week, the government announced that it would not seek preferential treatment as a developing nation any more, a move that came amid increased pressure from the United States for Seoul to give up the status it has maintained since 1995.

"(We) should use the decision this time as a new starting point to improve the constitution of (South Korea's) agriculture and strengthen the competitiveness of future agriculture," Lee said, presiding over a weekly Cabinet meeting.

He stressed that it was a decision made in "deep consideration" of the national interest, South Korea's international stature and the effect on the economy.

Lee noted that farmers are planning to stage protest rallies, worried about possible damage from the decision.

"The government fully understands their concern but there is no immediate impact for agricultural product tariffs and subsidies," he added.

He pledged every effort to protect rice and other sensitive fields in future WTO negotiations and to make up for any damage caused.

He instructed the authorities to do their best to secure the necessary funds in the process of the National Assembly's review of next year's budget proposal.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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