Turkey, US clash over rice trade

WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States announced Wednesday it had filed a trade case with the World Trade Organization accusing Turkey of imposing unfair restrictions on US rice exports. US officials said the WTO case contends that Turkey has an import licensing system that violates global trading rules by imposing significant barriers to the sale of US rice in the country. The administration said that the restrictions had resulted in a decline of US rice sales to Turkey by two-thirds since 2003 with sales of US milled and semi-milled rice falling by 91 percent over this period. «Right now American rice exporters are being unfairly restricted. That’s wrong,» US Trade Representative Rob Portman said in a statement announcing the filing of the WTO case. Portman said the decision to file a WTO case came after discussions with Turkey had failed to resolve the dispute. The administration said that the domestic purchase requirements imposed by Turkey allowed limited imports of rice at reduced tariff rates but only if the Turkish importer agreed to purchase significant quantities of domestic rice – in some cases more than three times the quantity of rice being imported. Under WTO rules, consultations are required as the first step after a case is filed. If those discussions do not resolve the issue, then the dispute can proceed to a hearing before a WTO panel. The administration estimated that Turkey’s domestic rice market could be worth more than $200 million (166.78 million euros) next year. If the consultations do not resolve the dispute, a WTO hearing panel would be formed to make a decision after both sides presented arguments. If the United States wins the case and Turkey still does not remove the barriers, the United States could win authorization from the WTO to impose retaliatory penalties on Turkish exports to the United States.

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