TOKYO : The Issue Is Rice

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Clayton K. Yeutter, on an Asian swing, is likely to have one of his more contentious stops in Japan, where the issue is rice.

The Bush Administration has called on Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu to reconsider a protectionist policy under which Japan bans the import of even a single grain of rice, which is a major crop in California among other places. And Yeutter, who is well-known and respected in Tokyo as a former U.S. trade representative, is expected to raise the issue during talks with Japanese officials.

Tokyo has recently showed some willingness to bend on the rice ban, but the dispute is most likely to be referred to multilateral negotiations under the so-called Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

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