BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is likely this week to impose tariffs on rice coming from Cambodia and Myanmar for the next three years to curb a surge in imports, according to a source familiar with the file.
The European Commission, which oversees trade policy in the bloc, proposed the measures last year and put these to the 28 member countries in December, but failed to get a clear majority of them in favor.
In the absence of an opinion by the relevant committee, the Commission itself was bound to take the final decision.
It has launched an internal procedure to determine if there is any opposition, with a Wednesday deadline, a source familiar with the process said. If, as expected, there is no opposition, then it would likely announce the start of measures on Friday, the source said.
The Commission’s proposal is to set a duty of 175 euros ($200.73) per tonne of rice in the first year, dropping to 150 euros in the second and 125 euros in year three, according to a Commission source.
It follows a “safeguard” investigation launched in March after a request from the Italian government.
Cambodia and Myanmar benefit from the EU’s “Everything But Arms” scheme which allows the world’s least developed countries to export most goods to the European Union free of duties.
Both countries already face losing this special access to the world’s largest trading bloc over their human rights records, although this potential sanction is separate from the rice safeguard measures.
The Commission found that a significant surge in imports had caused economic damage to the rice sector in Europe. Rice grows in eight southern European countries from Portugal to Bulgaria.
EU farming group Copa-Cogeca has said the two countries’ exports to the European Union of longer-grained Indica rice have increased from 9,000 tonnes in 2012 to 360,000 tonnes in 2017, resulting in a collapse of rice prices.
Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Ed Osmond