Optimism Growing Around New U.S. Rice Access into the UK

Hands with purple painted nails holds open book with EU and UK flags and text:  "Post-Brexit Changes"
Giving it a long look
Dec 18, 2019
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – USA Rice participated in a series of meetings here this week to kick-off discussions regarding post-Brexit rice trade between the U.S. and the United Kingdom (UK).

Meetings also were held in Brussels, Belgium, with the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Minister Counselor and with the Federation of European Rice Millers (FERM).  Talks there largely centered on the European Union (EU) reaction to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s landslide victory in the UK elections and the new clarity around an upcoming Brexit.  The EU will have an 11-month transition period through December 31, 2020 to work out a long-term trade agreement with the UK, providing some certainty to U.S. exporters through that period.  Much of what happens with the U.S. and UK negotiations will be dependent upon the direction their talks take with the EU.

In London, USA Rice visited with the new FAS ag counselor and her marketing specialist, the UK Rice Association, analysts from the Live Rice Index, and a number of U.S. rice importers.

“All of our meetings this week were met with a revitalized sense of optimism around a U.S.-UK trade deal and a clear desire for more access here for U.S.-grown rice,” said Chair of the USA Rice European Union Trade Policy Subcommittee Mark Holt.  “We would obviously like to regain the market share that we once held over a decade ago but that will take time and some work on our negotiators’ part.  They would also have to ensure that we can compete fairly in these markets without being constrained to an arbitrary quota or by providing duty-free access to all of our global competitors.”

Just this week, the U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Robert Lighthizer said, “The U.K. is a priority.  As soon as they get their objectives agreed to, we will start talking.”  Lighthizer also shared that he thinks the talks will lead the U.S. to "a really big deal [with the UK]."

Following the UK’s December 12 elections that had the conservative Tory party taking a substantial majority within Parliament, the January 31, 2020 Brexit from the EU is almost certain to proceed.  The U.S. published negotiating objectives last year but will officially be able to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement once the UK breaks away from the EU early next year.

USA Rice supports the full, existing EU quota for U.S. rice to remain with the EU, providing an opportunity for duty-free access into the UK.