WASHINGTON – At a hearing before the House Agriculture Committee, U.S. Trade
Representative Rob Portman announced that the United States filed a World Trade
Organization (WTO) case against Turkey today due to its unfair restrictions on
U.S. rice exports.
Turkey restricts rice imports in various ways through its import licensing
requirements. Just yesterday, Turkey reinstituted its domestic purchase
requirement. This requirement allows limited imports of rice at reduced duty
rates, but only if an importer also purchases significant quantities of domestic
rice – in some cases, more than three times the quantity to be imported. As a
result of these unfair restrictions, Turkey’s imports of U.S. rice of all types
have declined by two-thirds since 2003, with imports of U.S. milled and
semi-milled rice down by 91 percent over the same period.
"American rice farmers deserve fair access to Turkey’s market," said Portman.
"Right now American rice exports are being unfairly restricted. That’s wrong. We
have raised this issue with the Government of Turkey on several occasions, both
bilaterally and in Geneva, but our concerns have not been addressed. We
sincerely hope that Turkey uses the opportunity of WTO consultations to resolve
"The Bush Administration is committed to leveling the playing field to ensure
our farmers are treated fairly by opening markets around the world and
aggressively enforcing our trade agreements," said Agriculture Secretary Mike
Johanns. "America’s farmers have world-class products and are eager to compete
in the global market place but deserve fair treatment."
With 70 million potential consumers, Turkey’s domestic rice market is
forecast to be worth more than $200 million in 2006.
Consultations are the first step in a WTO dispute. Under WTO rules, parties
that do not resolve an issue through consultations may refer the matter to a WTO
dispute settlement panel.
U.S. rice exporters face serious market access restrictions in Turkey
resulting from that country’s import licensing system for rice.
Current Turkish regulations establish a tariff-rate quota for rice. The
regulations permit the importation of 300,000 metric tons of milled rice
equivalent at preferential tariff levels (20 percent for paddy rice, 25 percent
for brown rice, and 43 percent for milled rice) below the over quota rate of 45
percent, provided that importers purchase significant quantities of domestic
rice from the Turkish Grain Board or Turkish producers or producer associations.
The amount of domestic rice that must be purchased, which in some cases is more
than three times the quantity of rice to be imported, varies according to the
type of rice being imported and the source of the domestic rice. Turkey does not
permit the import of rice at the over-quota rate. Thus, when the domestic
purchase requirement is not in effect, such as during the Turkish rice harvest,
no imports are permitted. As a result of these restrictions, Turkish imports of
U.S. rice of all types have declined dramatically over the past three years.
The U.S. Government has expressed its concerns regarding Turkey’s import
restrictions on rice on several occasions over the past three years. Turkey has
consistently denied that a problem exists.
By conditioning the issuance of licenses to import at preferential tariff
levels upon the purchase of domestic rice, not permitting imports at the bound
rate, and implementing a de facto ban on rice imports during the Turkish rice
harvest, Turkey appears to be acting inconsistently with several WTO agreements,
including the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures, the General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994, the Agreement on Agriculture, and the
Agreement on Import Licensing Procedures.