Japan's high tariffs on rice imports met with concern

by Teresa Acklin
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   TOKYO — Beginning in April 1999, Japan will introduce high tariffs on the approximately 640,000 tonnes of rice imports the country receives annually, thanks to a decision reached by representatives from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the Agriculture Ministry and the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives.

   As part of the decision, imported rice will be subject to a tariff of 351.17 yen (U.S.$3.05) per kilogram in fiscal 1999 and 341 yen (U.S.$2.96) in and after fiscal 2000. According to the Kyodo News agency, the highest-grade U.S.-grown rice brand, which currently sells for 300 yen (U.S.$2.60) per kg in the U.S., will sell for about 651.17 yen (U.S.$5.66) in Japan.

   Japan's decision to adopt high rice import tariffs was met with concern from rice exporters worldwide. The U.S. ambassador to Japan said that implementation of such a tariff could “cripple” U.S. rice imports to Japan and could cause a serious trade disagreement.

   Japanese officials said the tariff, which was expected to be officially approved by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi's Cabinet on Dec. 18, conforms with all World Trade Organization regulations.