Italy spearheads initiative to limit rice imports to the EU

Italy and seven other EU countries asked the European Commission on 24 November to allow them to limit rice imports from Cambodia, on the ground of “protecting the Italian and European rice industry.” In the past five years, European imports of rice from Cambodia more than doubled, negatively impacting the
EU’s trade balance with this country (total imports of goods exceed exports by €3.9 billion in 2016).
Under the “safeguard clause” inscribed in the founding treaty of the European Community, when imports
from a third country hurt the trade balance of any EU country, member states can request the Commission to introduce trade barriers” to remedy the situation.” Italy’s initiative is “trailblazing”, a spokesperson of the Italian ministry of agriculture told EURACTIV.com, and it reunites France, Spain, Portugal, Hungry, Greece and Romania in demanding that rice imports from Camboida, which currently access the market freely, be subject to import controls. The Italian ministry of agriculture claims that the increase in “Indica” or long-grain rice imports from Cambodia, at about a third of the EU market price, has led EU farmers to switch to producing “Japonica” or short-grain rice, causing overproduction and a drop in prices of up to 60%. Italy already requested to activate the safegaurd clause in 2016 but never received a reply from the Commission.Under the “everything but arms” EU trade regime, less developed countries qualify for tariff-free, unlimited exports for all their products in the EU – except arms and armaments- provided they respect EU values such as human rights and labour rights