On Wednesday, President Donald Trump instructed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to consider increasing the level of an additional duty on imports of $200 billion from China, including rice, from 10 percent to 25 percent. Action by Ambassador Lighthizer to raise duties on the $200 billion in imports began on July 10 under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.
“USA Rice supported the Administration’s initial action to increase import duties on rice from China,” said Bobby Hanks, chairman of the USA Rice International Trade Policy Committee and a Louisiana miller. “We can’t ship U.S. rice to China, yet China is shipping increasing amounts of rice to the United States, and China raised import duties on U.S. rice to 25 percent – where is the fairness in any of this? We support the President’s instruction yesterday to Ambassador Lighthizer.”
USA Rice, with the support of successive U.S. administrations, has sought for more than a decade to achieve regulatory approval from the Chinese government to export U.S. milled rice to China. Despite signing a government-to-government phytosanitary protocol last July and positive follow-up this summer, progress has stalled. In the meantime, imports of rice from China have soared, triple the volume in 2017 versus 2016, and up 75 percent again in the first five months of 2018. Most of these imports are shipped to Puerto Rico.
China also placed retaliatory import duties of 25 percent on U.S. rice last month because of U.S. actions in response to China’s policies on intellectual property and technology transfer.
According to a statement by Lighthizer: “The increase in the possible rate of the additional duty is intended to provide the Administration with additional options to encourage China to change its harmful policies and behavior, and adopt policies that will lead to fairer markets and prosperity for all of our citizens.”
As with past increases in duties on imports from China, there is a comment period, including a public hearing, followed by administrative review prior to implementation. Because of the President’s direction yesterday, the close of the written comment period has been extended from August 30 to September 5.
“We were ready before the President’s instruction to recommend that imports of rice from China face an additional duty of 25 percent, and we will do so as part of the formal comment period,” said Hanks. “We have long sought normal commercial relations with China, but that means reciprocal fairness, and we have neither right now.”
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