WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The USA Rice Federation said on April 12 that welcomes the announcement by the Obama administration to support the entry of Japan as a negotiating partner in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  Japan’s entry dramatically increases the value of a TPP agreement for U.S. rice producers and exporters and for U.S. agriculture as a whole.

“Japan is the second-largest export market by value for U.S. rice and a broad-based negotiation like the TPP offers the best opportunity for better market access since the Uruguay Round Agreement of 1994.  We are seeking a significant improvement in the quantity and quality of access for U.S. rice in Japan as an outcome of TPP,” said Mark Denman, USA Rice chairman and a Texas rice miller.

“We appreciate and understand the political sensitivity of rice in Japan,” said Michael Rue, a California rice producer and vice-chairman of USA Rice’s International Trade Policy Committee. “Japan is a leader in the global economy and commercially meaningful improvements in access for U.S. rice must be a result of Japan’s entry into the TPP negotiations.” 

“Negotiations will likely be difficult, and the rice industry stands ready to support U.S. negotiators in the weeks and months ahead,” said Denman.

Steady U.S. rice exports to Japan began in the mid-1990s as a result of the Uruguay Round’s Agreement on Agriculture and have averaged almost 330,000 tonnes annually. Under Japan’s obligations to members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Japan imports 682,200 tonnes of rice (milled equivalent basis) annually during Japan’s April/March fiscal year. Imports above this level face a prohibitive tariff of approximately $3,400 per tonne at today’s exchange rate. The government of Japan is the sole importer of rice within the quota for WTO members.

USA Rice and its members have a longstanding commitment to the Japan market, both in policy efforts to obtain access and through promotion activities in Japan so that high quality U.S. rice is available to this important market.