By FWi staff

AUSTRALIA has lodged a formal objection against Japan over its 390% rice tariff – ignoring warnings that it might start a damaging trade war.

The objection was lodged last week with the World Trade Organisation.

Four years ago Japan opened up 8% of its zealously guarded rice market under WTO rules. In that time, Australia has increased its share of the Japanese market to $70 million.

But last month Japan imposed a 390% tariff, about $5/kg, on the remaining 92% of its rice market.

The Australian Government argues that this is prohibitive but Japan argues it is within WTO rules.

Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer conceded in The Weekly Times last week that Australia was risking Japanese retaliation but said the government could not allow the move to go unchallenged.

Mr Fischer said with Australia being one of the worlds leading advocators of free agricultural trade, our reputation would be tarnished if we didnt take up the fight.

“This is not just in the interests of the rice industry but in the interests of Team Australia in the lead-up to the millennium round of world trade negotiations,” he told the paper.