• Trump Trade Team Locked and Loaded with Lighthizer

    by Michael Klein | May 12, 2017
    He knows Mexico is #1 for rice
    ITP-Trump Trade Team Locked and Loaded with Lighthizer-170512

    President Trump’s trade team was rounded out yesterday when the man at the top, Robert Lighthizer, was finally confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become the U.S. Trade Representative.

    Ambassador Lighthizer hits the ground running with a long list of To-Do items, perhaps most notably overseeing the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a process that could get underway as early as next week with a formal notification to Congress of his intent to reopen the sprawling deal.

    Lighthizer’s views on free trade and agriculture that emerged during his confirmation process did much to reassure the ag sector, upset by what many perceived as reckless rhetoric on trade coming out of the White House.

    When asked if the needs of farmers and ranchers could be protected during any tinkering with  NAFTA, Lighthizer responded: “I do believe it can be done. I’m not suggesting that it will be easy, but I do believe it can be done.”

    “We welcome Ambassador Lighthizer to his new position and trust that any renegotiation of NAFTA will adhere to the guiding principle of ‘First do no harm,’” said Betsy Ward, President and CEO of USA Rice.  “Mexico remains our top export market and Canada our fourth.  That is because of NAFTA, not in spite of it.”

    Other issues awaiting Lighthizer include a 100 day trade program with China that, at this time, does not look to include U.S. rice, a possible opening up of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement from which rice was excluded in 2007, and a stepped up emphasis on enforcement of existing trade deals and rooting out bad actors as emphasized by President Trump on the campaign trail and since.

  • Trump Asking for More Information and Enforcement on Trade

    by Michael Klein | Apr 05, 2017
    He's got his marching orders
    ITP-Trump Asking for More Information and Enforcenment on Trade-170405

    WASHINGTON, DC – On Friday, President Trump signed two executive orders (E.O.) dealing with trade issues, both of which are of interest to the U.S. rice industry.

    The first provides for enhanced collection and enforcement of antidumping and countervailing duties and for stepping up enforcement of existing U.S. trade and customs law.

    The second E.O. directs the Secretary of Commerce and the office of the U.S. Trade Representative to prepare, within 90 days, an Omnibus Report on Significant Trade Deficits for the President’s review.

    This report will contain “…current and comprehensive information regarding unfair trade practices and the causes of United States trade deficits.”  The report is expected to identify those trading partners with which the United States had a significant trade deficit in merchandise in 2016 and address the causes of the deficit and whether the foreign country is unfairly burdening U.S. exports or the commerce of the United States, among other requirements.

    Media reports indicate that the Report will focus on trade deficits with the following countries:  China, Japan, Germany, Mexico, Ireland, Viet Nam, Italy, Korea, Malaysia, India, Thailand, France, Switzerland, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Canada.  Several of these countries are either major export markets for U.S. rice or competitors on the global rice market.

    “USA Rice has long called for increased action by the U.S. government to make sure that other countries are acting fairly in international and U.S. markets and living up to their international obligations.  These two executive orders show a shift in focus, and we look forward to providing information to the administration as details about implementing the president’s directives become known,” said USA Rice COO Bob Cummings.

  • USA Rice Welcomes Gil Thompson

    by Michael Klein | Apr 03, 2017
    Gil Thompson
     ITP-USA Rice Welcomes Gil Thompson-170403

    ARLINGTON, VA – USA Rice Federation is pleased to announce the hiring of Gil Thompson as Manager, International Policy. In this capacity, Gil will be working on international trade issues and producing reports on the American rice industry, including the Rice Executive, and staffing the World Market Price Subcommittee.

    Gil comes to USA Rice from the office of Congressman Mike Honda (CA-17), where he worked on issues relating to financial services, veterans affairs, and related appropriations.

    Raised in Silicon Valley, Gil received his double B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from St. Olaf College in Minnesota. He then spent two years working for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, investigating large-scale financial crimes. Afterward, Gil went on to receive his M.A. in Comparative and International Studies from ETH Zurich in Switzerland.

    “We look forward to Gil’s contribution on preserving and opening up rice markets globally as well as his assistance across USA Rice’s program areas,” said USA Rice COO Bob Cummings. 

  • UK Makes Brexit Official; What are Implications for U.S. Rice?

    by Michael Klein | Mar 30, 2017
    Vanishing act
    Brexit Graphic

    BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – In a move that will have implications and present opportunities for U.S. rice, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom informed the President of the European Union yesterday that the UK is invoking its rights under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union to withdraw from the EU.  Teresa May’s six-page letter formalized what all knew was coming since UK citizens voted to leave the EU in June – the “Brexit.”

    The prime minister’s action begins a two-year negotiation between UK and EU officials to remove the UK from more than 45 years of regulatory, economic, and political integration and establish a new relationship with the remaining 27 members of the EU.

    “This task is tremendously complicated and it’s unclear if two years will be sufficient,” said Bob Cummings, USA Rice COO.  “Many believe that the result will be an interim agreement that recognizes Brexit while the two sides continue negotiations, and the U.S. rice industry has a definite stake in the outcome.”

    At issue for the U.S. industry is how the much-diminished European market for U.S. rice will fare.  What has essentially been a single market: the EU, is becoming two markets: the EU and the UK.

    “We will need to work closely with U.S. trade officials on the treatment of the existing 38,000-metric-ton tariff rate quota for milled rice that the United States has with the EU,” Cummings said.  “Brexit should not affect that agreement that is the foundation of much of our current access in the EU where duties on U.S. rice are high while either very low or non-existent for many, many competitors.”

    Cummings acknowledged that much of the U.S. rice heading to the EU went to the UK, but that once Brexit is complete, the UK will have to establish its own tariff regime for imports not only from the EU but also from all other countries, including the United States.

    “Any U.S.-UK trade deal is at least two years away as the UK is unable to negotiate bilateral agreements with other countries while still a member of the EU,” Cummings explained.  “A U.S.-UK trade deal is attractive to our industry, especially now that a larger U.S.-EU trade deal (T-TIP) appears to be in hibernation.”

    The United States has exceeded its EU TRQ in each of the last 10 years, with 55,840 mt ($42.4 million) going to the EU last year.  However, shipments are down considerably from the pre-Liberty Link period.  For example, exports to the EU in 2005 were almost 306,000 mt ($86.4 million), of which 135,640 mt ($36.1 million) went to the UK.

  • Mexico May Move Forward with Viet Nam Trade Deal

    by Michael Klein | Feb 02, 2017
    Let's talk this through
    IP.w-Mexico-May-More-Forward-with-Vietnam-Trade-Deal-170202

    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.

  • U.S. Government Takes Twin Actions on Chinese Trade Distorting Policies

    by Michael Klein | Dec 15, 2016
    Ball is in your court, China
    ITP-U.S. Government Takes Twin Actions on Chinese Trade Distorting Policies-161215

    WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Obama Administration announced two separate but complementary agriculture trade enforcement actions at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against policies of China.  The U.S. requested the formation of a dispute settlement panel on the level of China’s domestic supports and challenged the way China administers tariff rate quotas (TRQs).  Both actions relate to wheat, corn and rice.

    Both moves were hailed by USA Rice.

    “Earlier this year, the U.S. requested consultations with China at the WTO on the very high levels of China’s domestic support for corn, wheat and rice producers, but the results were unsatisfactory,” explained Betsy Ward, USA Rice CEO and President.  “The next step in the WTO dispute process is requesting a panel to hear the arguments, and we’ve now done that.”

    Ward said it could take as many as two or three months to set up a panel, and that a report from that panel could take another 10 months.

    “We knew from the outset this was a long process, which is why keeping things moving forward is important,” she added.

    The new case the United States launched against China today challenges the way China administers tariff rate quotas (TRQs) for the import of several commodities, including wheat, corn, and rice.  China provides import licenses under the TRQs contrary to several of China’s WTO commitments and in a manner that effectively acts as import restrictions prohibiting the fulfillment of these TRQs.

    “While the United States cannot yet ship under China’s large rice TRQ, this case will be precedent-setting,” Ward said.  “We support efforts to have China administer these TRQs in a transparent manner that allows trade to occur, looking ahead to the day when the U.S.-China rice phytosanitary protocol is finally signed and we are shipping rice to this important market.”

    USA Rice is also pressing the administration to broaden enforcement action against other WTO members, like India and Thailand, whose domestic support levels for rice are inconsistent with WTO rules and have resulted in large increases in production, stocks, and exports that harm U.S. rice producers and exporters.

  • USA Rice Identifies Trade Obstacles for USTR

    by Deborah Willenborg | Nov 04, 2016
    Obstacles abound
    USA-Rice-Identifies-Trade-Obstacles
    ARLINGTON, VA -- Last week, USA Rice submitted its comments for the 2017 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE), an annual report issued by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).  Published in the first quarter of each year, the NTE is a summary of significant foreign trade barriers facing U.S. exports and is instrumental in USTR’s negotiations to eliminate such barriers.

    The USA Rice submission identified the EU’s tariff regime and biotechnology regulation; phytosanitary issues in Colombia and Turkey; domestic price supports in India and Thailand; and various import policies in Korea, Japan, and Taiwan as significant obstacles for the U.S. rice industry.  

    “Given the recent action the Administration took with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against domestic price supports in China, it is crucial to continue beating the drum on unfair trade practices,” said USA Rice COO Bob Cummings.  “Many other countries have policies which ignore their WTO violations, thus distorting global trade, and the U.S. rice industry is suffering for it.  Our submission makes it clear where we are facing the most egregious barriers to trade.”

    USA Rice’s NTE comments were issued in response to a notice in the Federal Register.  A copy of the submission is available here.

  • U.S. Government Taking China to Task on Trade Distorting Policies

    by Colleen Klem | Sep 13, 2016
    U.S. government and high-ranking congressional leaders join forces at today's announcement
    2120 

    WASHINGTON, DC - USA Rice President and CEO Betsy Ward attended a press conference here today where the Obama Administration announced plans to launch a trade enforcement action against China at the World Trade Organization (WTO) challenging trade-distorting domestic supports for three key crops: corn, wheat, and rice.

    In announcing the complaint, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman highlighted that in 2015 China's "market price support" for these products was estimated to be nearly $100 billion in excess of the levels China committed to when it joined the WTO.

    "We will aggressively pursue this challenge on behalf of American farmers and hold the Chinese government accountable to the standards of fair global trade," said Ambassador Froman.

    Ward said this latest action is just the first step in what could be a year-and-half long endeavor, but that the news is welcome for the signals it sends.

    "We compete with China in some important regional markets, and there's no question that an economy as large as China's can have major trade-distorting impacts in the global agricultural sector," said Ward.  "Despite years of work by USA Rice and USDA to open the Chinese market, we still have no access for U.S. grown rice.  This enforcement action also sends a clear signal to other countries with whom we compete and who are not living up to their WTO obligations with regard to rice, such as Viet Nam, Thailand, and India."

    Ward and Vetter

    Ward and USTR Ambassador Darci Vetter

    "USA Rice has asked our government for years to challenge countries who don't play by the rules, and we've provided them concrete evidence of harm being done by these countries to America's rice industry," she said. "It's gratifying to finally see some action."

    Ward pointed to a 2016 Texas A&M study that showed if rice subsidies were removed in China and other advanced developing counties, production in China would drop by as much as four percent and imports would increase nearly four-fold as their prices came more in line with world rice prices.

    "Under those models, U.S. rice exports rose 18 percent and farm gate prices rose nine percent," Ward added. "That's real money."

    There is no indication yet how China will react to the case. USA Rice and USDA have been pressing for years for a phytosanitary deal to open the Chinese market to U.S. rice. "The phytosanitary deal is purely technical in nature and it has been completed on the U.S. side for months. We will continue to work with USDA and believe the agreement can and should be signed despite today's action," Ward said.

    During today's press conference, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stated, "This case is an important message to all WTO members that they must take their WTO obligations seriously."

    Bipartisan support for the Administration's action demonstrates the importance of enforcing current and future trade deals. "We see this as a first step to bringing offending countries into compliance," said Ward. 

  • USA Rice Celebrates Centennial of the U.S. Warehouse Act

    by Colleen Klem | Jul 19, 2016
    Keith Glover
     keith glover

    WASHINGTON, DC - Last week, USA Rice helped to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Warehouse Act, a piece of legislation that authorizes the critically important structure for protecting and assuring producers and their lenders of proper crop production storage.     

    The procedures required by the Act are administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency's Commodity Operation Division. This Division licenses warehouses for the storage of U.S. agricultural commodities such as corn, cotton, dry peas, lentils, peanuts, rice, sorghum, soybeans, and wheat and also conducts annual examinations of the warehouses to ensure they are meeting these federal standards.  

    USA Rice sponsored a reception in the House Committee on Agriculture's hearing room, also supported by: the American Peanut Shellers Association, the Cotton Growers Warehouse Association, the Cotton Warehouse Association of America, the National Cotton Council of America, the National Grain and Feed Association, and the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council.  

    Keith Glover, CEO of Producers Rice Mill based in Stuttgart, Arkansas said, "I operate a pretty significant number of warehouses that are licensed under the U.S. Warehouse Act and I'm pleased to know that our forefathers put together this smart way to protect farmers that needed a reputable, safe place to store their grain an entire century ago. The Act has obviously changed over time to account for innovations like electronic warehouse receipts but ultimately it's stood the test of time and remains relevant."  

    The Act was officially passed on August 11, 1916 but the celebration was held earlier in anticipation of Congress' August Recess.    
  • USA Rice Makes Case at T-TIP Negotiations

    by Michael Klein | May 02, 2016

    Kristen DaytonNEW YORK, NEW YORK – Last week, U.S. and E.U. negotiators met in New York City for the latest round of negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). Stakeholders were invited to give presentations attended by negotiators on both sides, and USA Rice was there to make the case for eliminating tariffs on U.S. rice going into the EU.

    USA Rice International Policy Manager Kristen Dayton gave a presentation highlighting the U.S. rice industry’s need for more access to EU markets.  “The EU imports many types of rice grown in the U.S., but employs a complex tariff regime that hurts our export interests,” Dayton said.  “Tariff eliminations on all U.S. exports to the EU are a key objective for U.S. negotiators.”

    The EU negotiators have other objectives, such as preserving geographical indicators (GIs) for their Member States’ agricultural products.  GIs restrict what names can be used to refer to goods based on where they are produced.

    USA Rice Chairman Dow Brantley and Dayton also met with U.S. negotiators to discuss the state of talks between the two sides prior to the stakeholder presentations.

    At the same time U.S. and EU negotiators were meeting in New York, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and 25 other members of the Senate Agriculture and Finance committees sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman calling for an end to all agriculture tariffs, a rejection of GI restrictions, and support for biotechnology products.  The letter pointed out U.S. agricultural exports face a $12 billion trade deficit with the EU.

    The next round of T-TIP negotiations is tentatively scheduled for July at a European location.

  • USA Rice Highlights Trade Barriers for USTR

    by Colleen Klem | Oct 30, 2015
    Make way
    ITP- USA Rice Highlights Trade Barriers for USTR 151030 

    ARLINGTON, VA – USA Rice has submitted to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) a list of key trade barriers facing U.S. rice in foreign markets.  The barriers range from ongoing phytosanitary restrictions by Colombia on imports of U.S. paddy rice; a discriminatory and very complex tariff regime in the EU; the trade distorting impact of Thailand’s rice support program; government management of rice imports in Japan and Taiwan; and Korea’s new rice import regime.

    USTR is mandated by law to publish annually the National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE).   The NTE sets out an inventory of the most important foreign barriers affecting U.S. exports of goods and services, U.S. foreign direct investment, and protection of intellectual property rights.  The inventory facilitates U.S. negotiations aimed at reducing or eliminating these barriers. 

    “USA Rice’s submission provides an easy-to-follow road map to our trade negotiators of the most serious overseas barriers to U.S. rice exports,” said USA Rice COO Bob Cummings.  “Over the past few years USA Rice has provided evidence of these trade barriers and lack of compliance by many of our competitors with the trade rules of the World Trade Organization.  We’re anxious to strengthen our collaboration with the administration and other agriculture groups to remove these barriers and address WTO non-compliance.”

    USA Rice’s submission was in response to a Federal Register notice and the NTE report should be published during the first quarter of 2016, and the full submission can be accessed here.

  • U.S. Announces New Steps Towards Normalizing Relations with Cuba

    by Colleen Klem | Sep 18, 2015
    Loosening things up a little
     ITP- US Announces New Steps Towards Normalizing Relations with Cuba 150918

    WASHINGTON, DC-- Today the Obama Administration announced a set of new rules that will further normalize relations between the United States and Cuba. These regulatory changes include easing restrictions on authorized travel, and allowing U.S. companies to establish offices in Cuba.

    The announcement builds upon moves made by the Departments of Treasury and Commerce earlier this year to loosen U.S. restrictions on trade and travel with Cuba. 

    The embargo remains in effect, however, and must be lifted by an act of Congress. USA Rice is actively involved in efforts to promote normalized commercial relations with Cuba through membership and leadership in the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC). These most recent announcements do not appear to directly impact U.S. agricultural trade with Cuba.
  • Vietnam Food Association Visits USA Rice

    by Colleen Klem | Sep 01, 2015
    Betsy Ward (center) and Bob Cummings (far right) with leadership members of the Vietnam Food Association
     1896
    ARLINGTON, VA-- A 10-person delegation from the Vietnam Food Association (VNA) completed a U.S. tour today with a visit to USA Rice’s headquarters.  The delegation, led by President Huynh The Nang and Secretary General Huynh Minh Hue, provided an overview of Vietnam’s rice production and trade as well as challenges and opportunities facing Vietnam’s rice sector over the next five years.  Vietnam is one of the world’s largest rice producers and exporters, and the third largest supplier of U.S. imports.

    Bob Cummings, USA Rice COO and Jim Guinn, V.P. International Promotion, explained the structure, role and major program activities of USA Rice and sought clarification about Vietnam’s domestic rice support program. 

    “Meetings like today’s are important to building relationships with other global traders in rice,” said USA Rice President and CEO Betsy Ward who also attended the meeting. “But we have longstanding concerns about Vietnam’s compliance with its international trade obligations, and we will continue to press our government to hold Vietnam and other rice producing and exporting countries accountable to their trade obligations."
  • U.S. Flag Flies Over New Cuban Embassy

    by Colleen Klem | Aug 14, 2015
    Flag Raising in CubaPowerful symbol

    HAVANA, CUBA -- Today, the U.S. flag was raised over the newly established U.S. embassy here.  Secretary of State John Kerry attended the ceremony heralding further diplomatic engagement with Cuba.  The flag-raising follows a similar event in Washington, DC last month, where the Cuban flag now flies over their corresponding embassy.

    Despite the symbolic nature of these two ceremonies, relations between the United States and Cuba have not been normalized, and while ending the embargo has the biggest potential to transform the relationship, it requires Congress to change the laws that put the embargo in place.

    There has been a strong push by the U.S. agricultural community to normalize trade relations with Cuba, and give producers and businesses access to what is naturally a key export market.  The U.S. rice industry is poised to benefit from re-engaging trade with Cuba, and USA Rice has joined a coalition of other agricultural organizations to urge congressional action on this front.

    USA Rice is a founding member of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC), and CEO Betsy Ward spoke at the public launch of the group in January of this year.  The coalition formed prior to the December 17, 2014, announcement by President Obama of a change in U.S. policy towards Cuba after half a century.  Since that time, USA Rice and USACC have promoted the coalition's key goal:  a return to normal commercial relations between the United States and Cuba.

    "We are encouraged by this news and the Secretary's remarks at the flag-raising today in Havana," said Ward.  "We will continue to engage with Congress and actively support the bills in both chambers, which take steps to normalize relations with Cuba.

  • 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.

  • Inching Toward Trade with Cuba

    by Colleen Klem | Jul 29, 2015
    Everyone's waiting
     ITP-Inching-Toward-Trade-with-Cuba-SMALL-150729

    WASHINGTON, DC -- Yesterday, Representative Tom Emmer (R-MN) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to end the embargo on Cuba.  Called the "Cuba Trade Act of 2015," the bill mirrors a Senate bill introduced in June by Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS).  Emmer and Moran's bills completely lift the restrictions to trade and travel with Cuba and have bipartisan support, including legislators from key rice-producing states. 

    Last week, Moran's bill was introduced as an amendment to the Senate's Financial Services Appropriations Bill, along with two other amendments that would ease banking restrictions with Cuba and eliminate an obstacle to shipping goods to the Island.  The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Financial Services Appropriations Bill along with all three pro-Cuba amendments.

    Emmer's bill will face opposition from House Speaker John Boehner, who has said he will not encourage the House to address the embargo due to government and human rights issues in Cuba.

    The new House bill comes after last week's historic opening of a Cuban embassy in Washington.  Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to raise the American flag at the new U.S. Embassy in Havana next month. 

    The U.S. Agriculture for Cuba Coalition (USACC), of which USA Rice is a founding member, has come out in support of the three amendments to the Senate Financial Services Appropriations bills, as well as Emmer's Cuba Trade Act of 2015.

    "USA Rice has been at the forefront of the push to open up trade with Cuba, and we're encouraged by this flurry of legislative activity," said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.  "Cuba was our number one export market before the embargo, and I believe with our superior product and clear logistical advantages, it will be again one day."

  • USA Rice, Members, Iraqi Trade Minister Talk Markets

    by Colleen Klem | Jul 27, 2015
    Presenting market realities
    IP-Meeting with Iraqi Trade Minister-150727 

    AMMAN, JORDAN -- In a continued effort to keep U.S. rice competitive in the Iraqi market, USA Rice members met last week with the Iraqi Trade Minister and his staff to discuss requirements and expectations surrounding that country's public tender process.  Iraq imports approximately 1.4 million MT of rice annually and the Iraqi Grain Board purchases nearly all imports via a public tendering process. 

    The past year has seen both positive trade results, including a recent sale of 60,000 MT of U.S. long grain rice, but also frustration when U.S. tenders fail even while we remain price competitive vis-à-vis other South American origins.

    The meeting with the Trade Minister was intended to better understand the tendering process and the rationale for certain requirements contained in the tender documents.  In addition to USA Rice members and staff, USDA/FAS Minister Counselor for Iraq Ron Verdonk attended the meeting.  USDA and the U.S. Department of State have been extremely engaged and helpful to the U.S. rice industry as we try to gain reliable and consistent access to the Iraqi rice market.

    The U.S. team also reiterated a long-standing invitation for the Trade Minister and members of the Grain Board to visit rice country in the United States this summer.  The Minister has indicated that he will try to schedule a visit before September and USA Rice will develop an appropriate itinerary to accommodate the Minister's schedule.  

  • 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.

  • U.S. and Cuba Reestablish Diplomatic Relations

    by User Not Found | Jul 20, 2015
    Historic opening
     Cuban Embassy
    WASHINGTON, DC -- This morning USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward attended the ceremony officially opening the Cuban embassy here.  Hundreds of people gathered to watch as Cuban Ambassador Jose Ramon Cabañas and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla presided over the flag-raising ceremony at the building that has served as a Cuban "interests section," where officials process visas and conduct basic consular services.

    "This is truly exciting for those of us who have been working on this issue for a very long time," said Ward.  "The establishment of official ties between Cuba and the U.S. is an important step forward.  The U.S. rice industry is ready to pen this market but there is still a lot of uncertainty about when normal trade relations will occur."
     
    The U.S. embassy in Havana will officially open in mid-August.
  • U.S. Ag Export Community Meets; USA Rice Sits on Cuba Panel

    by Colleen Klem | Jul 17, 2015

    ARLINGTON, VA - Earlier this week, the U.S. Agricultural Export Development Council (USAEDC) held their annual Attaché Seminar in Arlington, Virginia. This two-day conference features consultations with more than 70 USDA Foreign Service officers and a full day of programming for cooperators and USDA officials. 

    USA Rice CEO Betsy Ward joined a panel of experts about opportunities in Cuba that was moderated by USDA Deputy Under Secretary Alexis Taylor.

    Ward spoke about USA Rice's involvement with the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC), and what she sees as the future for the Cuban embargo given the multiple bills that have been introduced in Congress.

    "Cuba could once again become an important market for U.S. rice, but the embargo must be lifted first, and true two-way trade needs to get going," she said. "Every day we get closer to the 2016 elections, presidential politics makes that harder to accomplish."

    USA Rice staff met with new and continuing attachés involved in many key rice export markets. These included the Caribbean, Central and South America, China, Mexico, and Turkey, among others.  Staff relayed industry concerns, received important feedback from the attachés, and discussed future actions in both trade policy and international promotions.

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack delivered the keynote address, highlighting the challenges and opportunities U.S. exports face in the coming months and years.

    "Secretary Vilsack talked about the impact of agriculture exports on the U.S. economy, projected to be $1 trillion from 2008 through 2016," Ward said. "With about half the U.S. rice crop being exported annually, the importance of foreign markets for rice cannot be overstated. That's why participating in meetings like this are so important - connecting face-to-face with the FAS staff on the ground in our key markets - it's one of the most important meetings we attend."

    Ward said USA Rice will also attend the USAEDC workshop in November in Baltimore.