In what could be an about-face on a highly symbolic trade issue, Japan is thinking seriously about letting imported rice into its hermetically sealed market. The change is coming because Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, Foreign Minister Michio Watanabe, and other top pols have decided that Japan can't afford to be seen as obstructing a General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade agriculture accord. One option they are mulling is allowing small quotas for a few years, as a first step toward an import regime regulated by tariffs. While the U. S. has long been urging such a step, such countries as Thailand and China, which have lower growing costs, would probably wind up being the main beneficiaries.

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