WASHINGTON–United States Senator John Boozman (R-AR) and a group of his colleagues are urging the Trump Administration to push for increased market access for U.S.-grown rice during negotiations with the United Kingdom (U.K.) for a new trade agreement.
In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the senators note that prior to 2007, the U.K. was one of the largest export destinations for American rice. However, for more than a decade, the European Union (EU) has severely limited market access for U.S.-grown rice. Now that the U.K. is no longer tied to the EU, negotiations for a new agreement provide a fresh opportunity for U.S. rice farmers to help meet the country’s needs.
“Given market demand and existing relationships with Britain’s importers, the U.S. rice industry stands ready to regain significant market share through these negotiations. Restoring this important export market would have a remarkably positive economic impact throughout rice country, which, like the rest of the agricultural economy, has been struggling in recent years,” the senators wrote in the letter.
Boozman authored the letter, which was signed by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX).
The full text of the letter is as follows:
Dear Ambassador Lighthizer,
We want to first thank you for the work your team has done and continues to do to ensure U.S. farmers and ranchers can compete on a level playing field across the world. You have already helped deliver several of the President’s key trade goals, and he has established ambitious goals for your team in 2020. With the January 31, 2020, departure of the United Kingdom (U.K.) from the European Union (E.U.), one of those goals is to clinch a trade agreement with the newly-independent U.K. before the end of this year. As Senators representing rice-producing states and the associated farmers, millers, merchants and others involved in the supply chain, we encourage you to take advantage of the rice demand in the U.K. to achieve increased market access for U.S.-grown rice through your upcoming negotiations.
As a country without domestic rice production, the U.K. imports more than 600,000 metric tons of rice annually to meet their consumers’ growing demand. Due to the U.K.’s diverse population and diets, there is an opportunity to grow market access for all types and forms of high-quality U.S.-grown rice. The E.U., and by extension the U.K.’s, customs union assesses a steep tariff on U.S. rice outside of the roughly 38,000-ton quota and currently applies a 25 percent retaliatory tariff on all U.S. rice, making sales and market growth difficult.
Prior to 2007, the U.K. was one of the largest export destinations for American rice, with a 10-year annual average of 115,000 metric tons, until a market-closing biotech detection occurred. In most cases, a biotech detection event is overcome through sound science and time; however, the E.U. and their member states have continued to severely limit access for U.S.-grown rice more than 10 years later. The U.K. is not expected to maintain these protectionist barriers. Given market demand and existing relationships with Britain’s importers, the U.S. rice industry stands ready to regain significant market share through these negotiations. Restoring this important export market would have a remarkably positive economic impact throughout rice country, which, like the rest of the agricultural economy, has been struggling in recent years.