• Mexico May Move Forward with Viet Nam Trade Deal

    by Michael Klein | Feb 02, 2017
    Let's talk this through

    MEXICO CITY, MEXICO -- According to press reports, the government of Mexico (GOM) may move forward with implementing individual bi-lateral trade deals with many of the countries that participated in the now defunct Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  These countries include Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam.

    “The President has given me instructions to convert the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreements into bi-lateral agreements with all of the countries with whom we do not already have free trade agreements,” said Secretary of the Economy Ildefonso Guajardo.

    Of these countries, the most sensitive to U.S. rice interests is Viet Nam, an unfairly low cost producer of long grain milled rice, and one from whom Mexico has imported rice in the past.  Currently the Mexican import duty is 20 percent, but whether immediately phased out, or eliminated over time, its removal will give the Asian producer a huge advantage in Mexico.  This past year, Viet Nam exported less than 5,000 MT of rice to Mexico; however when Mexico did not have a 20 percent duty (as in 2014), they exported nearly 70,000 MT.

    “This news, along with the talk about renegotiating all or parts of NAFTA, is creating a great deal of uncertainty,” said Brian King, chairman of USA Rice and of USA Rice’s Western Hemisphere Promotion Subcommittee.  “To date nothing has changed or been affected, but the market is nervous as to what might happen in the future, and Mexico is the largest market for U.S. rice.  We are in touch with the U.S. Embassy there and trade partners to get the very latest as this story develops, but I can tell you that anything that disrupts trade between the U.S. and Mexico gives the rice industry pause."

    At 85 percent market share, the U.S. is the major supplier of rice to Mexico and Mexico is the largest market for U.S. rice taking some 800,000 ​MT valued at $260 million.  Most of the rice exported is in rough form, but there is strong and growing demand for direct imports of long grain milled rice.

  • TPP – R.I.P. So, What’s Next?

    by Deborah Willenborg | Jan 24, 2017
    Rest In Peace
    WASHINGTON, DC -- President Trump yesterday followed through on a key campaign promise and sent a Memorandum to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) instructing the agency to inform the 11 other Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) partners that the United States is withdrawing from the agreement and any TPP-related negotiations.  This action effectively stops the agreement as negotiated in 2015 because U.S. enactment is necessary for the agreement to enter into legal force.  USA Rice considered the TPP as deficient, and did not adopt a position on the agreement pending assurances on the reported gains for U.S. rice, primarily in Japan.

    The memorandum also stated the administration’s intention to deal one-on-one with other countries in bilateral trade negotiations, and instructed USTR “…to begin pursuing, wherever possible, bilateral trade negotiations to promote American industry, protect American workers, and raise American wages.”   

    “The economic health of the U.S. rice industry is heavily dependent on exports, and strong trade deals like the North America Free Trade Agreement and the U.S.-Colombia agreement bring real benefits to our producers and marketers,” said Carl Brothers, COO Riceland Foods Inc. and chairman of the USA Rice International Trade Policy (ITP) Committee.  “We will engage with the new administration and press for improved access in key markets like Japan and the EU through trade agreements that work for rice.”

    U.S. withdrawal from the TPP does not affect Japan’s existing access for imported rice, and Japan is consistently among the top five export destinations for U.S. rice.  “U.S. rice faces structural obstacles in Japan, and we support negotiation of a trade agreement with Japan that improves the quality of our access in addition to shipping more U.S. rice to that country,” said Michael Rue, California producer and vice chairman of the ITP Committee.  

    Brothers added, “Access for U.S. rice in the EU is constrained by discriminatory tariffs and tariff rate quotas, and real growth can occur only as a result of a trade agreement that brings down EU duties on U.S. rice.”  

    Various media indicate that the prime ministers of Japan and the United Kingdom will meet with President Trump separately in Washington, D.C. late this week, and trade is reportedly on the agenda of the visiting leaders.
  • Mexico to Eliminate Rice Import Duties Under TPP

    by Colleen Klem | Nov 06, 2015
    TPP Under a Microscope
     TPP Under a Microscope

    ARLINGTON, VA - Yesterday's release of the Trans Pacific Partnership text confirms what many have speculated - Mexico has agreed to eliminate all tariffs on rice imports from other TPP partners.  The United States already enjoys duty-free access for rice into Mexico because of the North America Free Trade Agreement, so the largest beneficiary of this move is Vietnam. 

    Mexico has agreed to eliminate all import duties on rice except for milled rice on the day the TPP agreement enters into force.  Milled rice duties will decline from the current 20 percent by 2 percentage points each year for 10 years.  This reduction will begin after entry into force which is unlikely to occur until 2017 at the earliest.

    "We faced an uphill battle in Mexico because it was evident that Mexico's government intended to liberalize rice trade with its TPP partners," said USA Rice COO Bob Cummings.  "The major threat is in milled rice and USA Rice worked closely with the Mexican Rice Council to preserve the U.S. rice market in Mexico."

    "Thank you to USA Rice for the support which it has given to us," said Ricardo Mendoza, Executive Director, Mexican Rice Council in an email to USA Rice confirming Mexico's new duty structure. "We will be following closely the approval process [in the TPP countries]."  

    Mexico is the number one export market for U.S. rice.  Paddy rice dominates U.S. exports and Mexico's imports.  However, the share of milled rice imports is on the rise, including from the United States, and Vietnam is likely to be a key competitor for the United States going forward.

  • U.S. Releases Full TPP Text

    by Deborah Willenborg | Nov 05, 2015
    Digging for the details
    Overwhelmed at the computer
    WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative released the full text of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) which was concluded on October 5. 

    “We welcome the release of the TPP text and look forward to examining the rice market access provisions,” said USA Rice COO Bob Cummings.  “The text is extensive, and we want to verify and understand better the access we’ve been promised, and to assess the true value of the agreement for the U.S. rice industry.”

    Today’s release of the text is the beginning step in eventual congressional consideration of the TPP.  President Obama is required to inform Congress 90 days beforehand of his intention to sign the TPP agreement and reports indicate that notification will occur shortly.  Formal congressional consideration awaits the president’s signature as well as conclusion of an analysis of the effect of the agreement on the economy by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC).  The USITC has 105 days after the president announces his intention to sign the agreement to complete this analysis.  

    The earliest that Congress’s review could begin is likely March 2016 and many believe that action will not take place until after the November 2016 elections.
  • World Market Price Subcommittee: PLC Payment Timelines and Trade

    by Deborah Willenborg | Oct 21, 2015
    Double-checking the facts and figures
    Oct 2015 WMP Subcmte
    WASHINGTON, DC -- This morning, the World Market Price Subcommittee (WMP) met here with representatives from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the Farm Service Agency (FSA), the Economic Research Service (ERS), and the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) to discuss a variety of issues in the global rice trade affecting the U.S. rice industry.

    While reviewing recent reports of rice yield from NASS, Subcommittee members found projected yields from Texas to be too high and those from California to be far too low.  Members also questioned FSA about the statistics of Price Loss Coverage (PLC) payments for the 2014 crop.  While payments under the new program were expected quickly and in-full this coming November, FSA agreed to clarify its timeline and report back to USA Rice.  (See USA Rice Chairman Dow Brantley’s comments on the topic.)

    The Subcommittee discussed global policy issues including details of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  Because the U.S. government has not yet released the official text of the deal, possible ramifications for the U.S. rice industry are speculative at this point.  The Subcommittee was interested in what could be discovered about the deal between the U.S. and Japan, as well as what duties will continue to exist between Mexico and Vietnam, as both countries, one a critical destination for U.S. rice, the other a strong competitor, are also signatories to the TPP.

    Chairman Keith Glover welcomed new participants onto the subcommittee for the 2015-17 term, and afterwards said, “The meeting today was productive and educational.  We appreciate the participation of NASS, ERS, FSA, and FAS, and look forward to receiving clarification about the status of PLC payments from the 2014 crop.”

    The next World Market Price meeting will take place in February 2016, following the close of the Government Affairs Conference (GAC).
  • USDA Posts TPP Information

    by Deborah Willenborg | Oct 07, 2015
    Click graphic to enlarge or download
    TPP Info, Rice infographic 
    WASHINGTON, DC -- Commodity Fact Sheets showing the market access impact of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement are now available on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website.  (www.fas.usda.gov/tpp).  The Fact Sheets are infographics and the rice graphic is printed with this article.  There is additional information on TPP at the website, and readers are urged to consult the site regularly.  USA Rice will alert readers of the Daily when new rice-specific information is available, particularly as regards the outcome of Mexico’s negotiations with Vietnam.
  • Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement Reached

    by Deborah Willenborg | Oct 05, 2015
    TPP Trade Ministers wrap it up in Atlanta
    TPP 12 Trade Ministers
    ARLINGTON, VA -- Trade Ministers from 12 countries, including the United States, announced in Atlanta this morning the conclusion of trade negotiations under the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  

    USA Rice has been engaged with U.S. negotiators for several years to ensure that rice market access is improved as part of any final TPP deal and we appreciate the substantial effort and work put in by U.S. negotiators.  As with previous TPP negotiating sessions and Ministerial meetings, USA Rice was represented in Atlanta by member leaders and staff who provided technical and policy guidance to U.S. negotiators.

    Administration officials are now finalizing the documents making up the agreement and U.S. law requires that the TPP text be made available to the public sixty days prior to submission of the agreement to Congress for approval.

    USA Rice Chairman Dow Brantley, a rice farmer from Arkansas, said, “USA Rice will review the documents in detail when available and will, in consultation with our leadership, decide whether the market access gains are significant enough for us to support passage in Congress.”

    Brantley continued, “USA Rice also thanks Members of Congress and congressional leaders for their strong support and advocacy for an agreement that provides meaningful benefits for U.S. rice.  Rice is nearly always a sensitive commodity in trade negotiations and the TPP was no exception.  USA Rice will continue to remain in close contact with Congress as we assess the agreement.”

    The 12 TPP partners are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.
  • No Conclusion Yet in TPP Negotiations

    by Deborah Willenborg | Oct 02, 2015
    TPP logo
    ATLANTA, GA – What many hoped would be the final round of negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is being held up by several unresolved issues including market access for U.S. rice.

    USA Rice Chairman Dow Brantley, who along with Michael Rue, chairman of the USA Rice Asia Trade Policy Subcommittee, attended the trade talks, said, “We have made it clear to U.S. negotiators that an agreement without meaningful improvement in the quantity and quality of market access for U.S. rice in Japan and preservation of existing market access overall is an agreement that we cannot support.”

    Yesterday, seventeen Members of the House Agriculture Committee sent a letter to Ambassador Michael Froman, U.S. Trade Representative, echoing these concerns.  Three rice state legislators, Rick Crawford (R-AR), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), and Ralph Abraham (R-LA), signed the letter saying, “We…remain deeply concerned over the lack of meaningful market access in key markets for America’s rice farmers…”

    The talks have been extended into tomorrow as TPP countries press for a final agreement.
  • USA Rice Briefs House Agriculture Committee Staff

    by Deborah Willenborg | Sep 10, 2015
    Trade briefing on Capitol Hill
    WASHINGTON, DC -- USA Rice COO Bob Cummings joined representatives from the dairy and sugar industries on Tuesday for a briefing on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) at the House Agriculture committee.  The briefing, for the agriculture staff of individual Committee Members, was in preparation for a meeting between the Committee and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman the following day which was held in executive session.  

    “By all reports, the TPP negotiations are coming to a close, and Tuesday’s session was a good opportunity to share with staff our concerns about important improvements that are still needed in the rice market access deal reportedly negotiated between the U.S. and Japan” said Cummings.  

    Expectations among many were high that the negotiations would close at the Ministerial meeting held in Hawaii in late July, but trade ministers were unable to resolve differences on three key issues:  the rules of origin for automobiles and parts manufactured in the 12 TPP countries, dairy market access, and the length of time certain medicines would receive patent protection within TPP countries.  Press reports indicate that negotiations to resolve these issues are currently taking place.
  • TPP Ministerial Yields No Agreement

    by Colleen Klem | Aug 03, 2015
    No deal yet
     ITp- TPP 150803 2

    MAUI, HI - Trade ministers from twelve countries met for several days here last week, but failed to reach agreement on the broad and far reaching Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.  USA Rice was present at the meeting to press for greater market access for U.S. rice and to protect existing U.S. rice markets.  Obstacles on agriculture market access, particularly dairy, sugar, and rice, as well as on auto trade, among key TPP players are behind the lack of agreement.

    "Despite a reasonable and commercially viable U.S. negotiating position on rice market access to Japan, Japan is offering new access equivalent to less than one percent of Japan's market," said Michael Rue, a California rice farmer who attended the Ministerial. "Additionally, the government of Japan is seeking to continue a very heavy-handed management of imports that prevents direct access to Japan's consumers."

    Rue is also the chairman of USA Rice's Asia Trade Policy Subcommittee and believes the current deal is ultimately unacceptable to the U.S. rice industry.

    "We are also concerned about the competitive status of U.S. rice if under this agreement Vietnam achieves duty-free status for milled rice in Mexico," he said. "We will look at any agreement as a whole, but an agreement without meaningful improvement in the quantity and quality of market access for U.S. rice in Japan and preservation of existing market access overall is an agreement that we have no choice but to oppose."

    "We will redouble our efforts with administration officials and Congress to educate them on the critical importance of not settling for an agreement that provides substandard benefits for U.S. rice," said Bob Cummings, USA Rice COO who also attended the Ministerial.

    Cummings said another Ministerial could be planned for later this summer, and USA Rice would continue to participate to represent the U.S. industry.

    The twelve TPP participants are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.

  • USA Rice Meets with Taiwan Government Officials and USDA about Rice Imports

    by Colleen Klem | Jul 24, 2015

    TAIPEI, TAIWAN -- Last week, Michael Rue, California rice producer and chairman of USA Rice's Asia Trade Policy Subcommittee, and USA Rice COO Bob Cummings met with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service employees stationed in Taiwan and with officials from Taiwan's Agriculture and Food Agency (AFA) and the Ministry of Economic Affairs to discuss ongoing concerns about access for U.S. rice in Taiwan.

    When Taiwan joined the World Trade Organization, officials agreed to import 64,634 MT  (brown basis) of U.S. rice annually.  Approximately 45 percent is imported directly by AFA and the remainder is purchased under a Simultaneous Buy-Sell system managed by AFA officials.  Import tenders for U.S. and other origin rice often fail because the offered prices exceed a price ceiling set by AFA. 

    "We continued our discussion with AFA about the non-transparent nature of the price ceiling mechanism and the problems this causes Taiwan in fulfilling its WTO obligations," said Michael Rue. 

    Taiwan did agree to hold an annual rice technical meeting with USA Rice members.  Taiwan officials also expressed interest in joining the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement following completion of negotiations among the current 12 participants, including the United States.

  • Field Day Features USA Rice Presentations

    by Colleen Klem | Jul 02, 2015
     Rice farmer Ray Stoesser (l) in talks with USA Rice's Ben Mosely
    EAGLE LAKE, TX -- USA Rice staff Betsy Ward and Ben Mosely addressed Texas farmers at the dinner and program following the Eagle Lake Rice Field Day this week. 
    Ward gave an overview of USA Rice work on behalf of rice farmers and specifically addressed trade issues critical to the rice industry like the TPP negotiations, Iraq, China, and domestic and international promotion initiatives. 
    Mosely outlined USA Rice's work with Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on implementation of the farm bill, and plans to submit a pre-proposal next week for a small reservoir here as part of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).  The project will be executed in cooperation with Ducks Unlimited and the Lower Colorado River Authority, among several other partners, as a way to reduce groundwater usage on rice fields and in managed waterfowl habitat.
    "Visiting farmers helps us develop our message to Congress and federal agencies," said Ward.  "Rice is a small commodity and our goal is to speak to policymakers and influencers with one voice so that the industry delivers a strong, clear message.  We want to keep fighting above our weight class for farmers in Texas and across the rice states."
    Ward and Mosely also answered questions on recent changes to farm policy and trade from members of the Texas Rice Producers' Legislative Group and the Texas Rice Producers' Board and heard from both groups about the important issues on the ground.

  • USA Rice Addresses Annual LAFBF Meeting

    by Colleen Klem | Jun 30, 2015
    USA Rice's Ben Mosely
    Ben Mosely
    NEW ORLEANS, LA -- The Rice Advisory Committee of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation (LAFBF) held its annual meeting in conjunction with the 93rd annual LAFBF convention last Saturday.  USA Rice's Vice President of Government Affairs Ben Mosely updated attendees on a range of public policy issues, most notably:  implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill, trade, and the ongoing efforts of the USA Rice/Ducks Unlimited Stewardship Partnership.
    Mosely outlined USA Rice's success in the last farm bill considering the relatively small commodity size of rice.  He also provided updates on PLC/ARC enrollment, comments submitted for the actively engaged provision, incentive-based conservation programs, and several other pertinent programs and provisions. 
    The presentation Saturday was just in time to announce the passage of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill by Congress which Mosely said will clear the way for the real work to begin by USA Rice on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  USA Rice supported the passage of TPA and will be working closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the United States Trade Representative on the role that rice may play in TPP negotiations throughout the rest of the summer. 
    Mosely wrapped up with an overview and update on the Rice Stewardship Partnership where he described USA Rice's involvement as "waist-deep in their first Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) project where they'll be implementing rice-specific conservation practices in all six rice-growing states."  The Partnership is looking at other outlets to both further the funding and the mission of the organizations including a second joint RCPP proposal. 
    Getting policy staff in the field is crucial to understanding the unique needs of farmers and it's something Mosely truly enjoys.  
    His efforts were appreciated as Richard Fontenot, a LAFBF vice president and chairman of the Rice Advisory Committee said, "Our members were excited about the diverse but substantial subject matter Ben presented, and we received a lot of complimentary remarks from members of the Rice Advisory Committee following his presentation."
    Kyle McCann, LAFBF associate commodities director, said, "Many of our members are not typically engaged in national agricultural policy issues and they were appreciative that Ben was able to provide such helpful insight and in a manner that related to issues they experience on their own rice operations." 
    "Visiting firsthand with growers and discussing issues that directly affect operations is so important for us and the work we do representing the U.S. rice industry in Washington," Mosley said.  "I want to thank LAFBF for inviting me to take part in their annual meeting. We look forward to seeing everyone again when we return to New Orleans December 9-11 for our own annual USA Rice Outlook Conference."