U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman says the United States has requested a dispute settlement panel in its World Trade Organization (WTO) case against Turkey's unfair restrictions on U.S. rice exports.

“We applaud Ambassador Portman for challenging Turkey's import restrictions on U.S. rice,” said Michael Rue, a California rice producer and chairman of the USA Rice Federation's Asia Trade Policy Subcommittee. “USA Rice has worked for some time with the U.S. Trade Representative's office and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to have Turkey remove its discriminatory rice import licensing system.”

“This case is about giving U.S. farmers fair access to Turkey's market. American rice farmers are being denied access to Turkey's rice market because of Turkey's unfair import restrictions,” said Portman. “Over the past three years, including most recently in WTO dispute settlement consultations, we've tried to resolve this issue without resorting to litigation. Unfortunately, our serious concerns have not been addressed and we must move forward to seek the establishment of a WTO panel. We still hope that a negotiated solution can be reached and that Turkey will allow U.S. producers to compete fairly in the Turkish market.”

“While it's unfortunate that litigation in the WTO has become our only option, this action was necessary and we are pleased with the consistent and strong support we have received from the administration,” Rue said. “USA Rice thanks Ambassador Portman for defending the U.S. rice industry.”

With 70 million potential consumers, Turkey's domestic rice market is forecast to be worth more than $200 million in 2006. The United States requested consultations with Turkey on this matter on Nov. 2, 2005, but those consultations have not resolved the dispute.