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WTO rules for U.S. in rice dispute with Turkey
GENEVA — The World Trade Organization ruled in favor of the United States on Friday in a dispute over Turkey's restrictions on U.S. rice imports.

The WTO panel said Turkey has violated international trade agreements by offering lower tariffs to its rice importers as long as they bought significant quantities of domestic rice.

It also ruled against Turkey's practice of denying import licenses for the import of U.S. rice beyond a minimum guaranteed level during certain periods since 2003, such as during Turkey's rice harvests.

"The panels findings will help to level the playing field and give U.S. rice growers fair access to Turkeys market," said U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab. "I urge Turkey to comply fully and permanently dismantle its discretionary import licensing system for rice. The United States will continue to enforce our trade agreements in this and other areas to ensure that U.S. exporters enjoy open markets and a level playing field."

Washington said the Turkish practices were hurting U.S. rice exports in a market potentially worth more than $200 million annually. It said some Turkish importers were being forced to buy up to three times more Turkish rice than imported U.S. rice to qualify for the lower tariff.

Turkey told the panel that its domestic purchasing measure had already expired and it has no plans to reintroduce it.

The panel noted Turkey's declaration, but recommended that it nevertheless ensure all inconsistent measures were brought in line with WTO agreements.

"There's no longer any measures that we feel are illegal," said Mehmet Sonmez, a trade official at Turkey's WTO mission in Geneva.

Sonmez said the decision was "balanced" in that it recognized Turkey's move in August 2006 to let its domestic purchase rule expire. He said the WTO decision in that respect amounted to a "finding" more than a "recommendation."

U.S. rice is grown primarily in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas.

Washington brought the case to the WTO in 2006, saying that it tried for three years to settle the problem, but failed.

Turkey has 60 days to appeal the decision.
MGR Archive 23.9.2007
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