Farmers object to S. Korean government’s plan to relinquish “developing country” status in WTO

Farmers’ groups are objecting to pressure from the US for South Korea to relinquish its “developing country” status within the World Trade Organization (WTO).

"Farmer’s Road,” an association of five farmers’ groups including the Korean Peasants’ League and Catholic Farmers’ Movement, planned to hold a press conference in front of the Central Government Complex in Seoul’s Gwanghwamun neighborhood on the morning of Oct. 7 to deliver a scathing criticism of the government’s recent hints at plans to give up South Korea’s developing country status. Their aim was to send the warning message that if South Korea loses its developing country status in the WTO, its agriculture – already suffering under collapsing prices and open administration practices – will be “plunged into irreversible catastrophe.”

They also planned to criticize US President Donald Trump for “infringing on trade and food sovereignty” with his pressure on South Korea and urge Seoul to “hold on to developing country status as a last defense to guarantee citizen livelihoods and farmer rights.”

The South Korean government plans to make a decision on the developing country status question following a meeting of international economy-related Cabinet ministers within the month. Appearing before the National Assembly on Oct. 4, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance Hong Nam-ki said that “the relevant ministries have met five times now [on the issue]” and “will finish their examination shortly.” On Oct. 2, Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Sung Yun-mo said there would be “no change to tariff rates and other benefits enjoyed through the current agreements” even if South Korea loses its developing country status.

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