Politics

Senators Call for Removal of Trade Program’s Rice Tariff Barriers

WASHINGTON—Members of the U.S. Senate are urging the Trump Administration to reform our largest and oldest trade preference program to level the playing field for American rice producers.

The program in question—the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP)—provides duty-free treatment to goods from developing countries to promote economic growth in those nations. In recent years, highly-subsidized rice growing competitors have taken advantage of this program to increase rice exports to the U.S. at the expense of American producers.

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer—authored by Senator John Boozman (R-AR)—the members shared their support for the USA Rice Federation’s petition to remove all rice tariff lines from the list of commodities eligible for duty-free import under GSP.

“We understand GSP is meant to be a win-win for both the U.S. and our trading partners, but unfortunately in the case of rice, our biggest competitors on the world stage have taken advantage of the program for far too long. Over the past several years, we have seen an annual uptick in rice imports from countries that have GSP eligibility. Coupled with our competitors’ high and rising domestic subsidies, these unfair advantages are having negative implications for our rice farmers, millers, merchants and allied businesses, who are losing domestic market share. As you continue your efforts to promote fair and free trade, we encourage you to remove rice from the GSP eligibility list,” members wrote in the letter.

Along with Boozman, the letter is signed by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Kennedy (R-LA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and John Cornyn (R-TX).

Full text of the letter below: 

The Honorable Robert Lighthizer

United States Trade Representative

600 17th Street, NW

Washington, DC 20508

Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:

Thank you for your work on behalf of American farmers and ranchers to promote a fair and level playing field for them in the global marketplace.

During a June 2020 Senate Finance Committee hearing, you mentioned the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) “has benefits, but needs changes.” We would like to express our support for the USA Rice Federation’s petition to remove all rice tariff lines from the list of eligible commodities for duty-free access to the U.S. under GSP.

We understand GSP is meant to be a win-win for both the U.S. and our trading partners, but unfortunately in the case of rice, our biggest competitors on the world stage have taken advantage of the program for far too long. Over the past several years, we have seen an annual uptick in rice imports from countries that have GSP eligibility. Coupled with our competitors’ high and rising domestic subsidies, these unfair advantages are having negative implications for our rice farmers, millers, merchants and allied businesses, who are losing domestic market share.

As you continue your efforts to promote fair and free trade, we encourage you to remove rice from the GSP eligibility list.

Thank you for considering our request, and we look forward to your response.

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