Ag Trade: Congress Calls on USTR to Remove Rice from GSP Commodities

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Earlier this month, House and Senate letters, signed by seven Senators and thirteen members of the Rice Caucus, were sent to Ambassador , the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), in support of USA Rice’s petition to the Agency to remove rice from the list of duty-free commodities under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Program.  Currently, six rice-related tariff lines are eligible for duty-free access to the U.S. for certain GSP-eligible countries.

Countries primarily impacted by the removal of GSP benefits for rice would include Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Paraguay, and Thailand.  Additionally, India would be impacted if they eventually meet the USTR requirements to regain GSP eligibility.

The petition was first filed by USA Rice in March of this year and continues to work its way through the review process, including an investigation by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) and public, virtual hearings conducted by both the USTR and USITC.  A final decision on the petition is expected in the coming weeks, with any changes slated to go into effect in 2021.

Members of the Senate cite in their letter, sent earlier this week, “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.”

The letter continues: “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.”

Similarly, the House Members’ letter added that, “Unfortunately, through GSP benefits, trade agreements, or even our standard tariff rates, everyone else gets a deal when they want to ship rice into the U.S.  This needs to change.”

In recent years, USTR has provided assistance to other domestic food industries through the removal of GSP benefits, including for imported tart cherries from Turkey, seafood from Thailand, and full revocation of India’s benefits, setting a precedent for helping import-sensitive commodities.




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