Reports that a China/U.S. rice trade pact had been struck were premature. Hopes that a deal would be signed next week were put to bed during a Wednesday (September 16) conference call between USDA’s APHIS and major U.S. rice players.
“There was conference call yesterday with high-ranking APHIS officials,” said Michael Klein, USA Rice Federation spokesman. “A lot of USA Rice Federation people were on the call. The USRPA (Rice Producers Association) was on the call, as well.
“APHIS officials said they were doing the call to set the record straight because there are a lot of rumors floating around. They wanted to confirm there is no confirmation that the Chinese have agreed to the proposal APHIS sent them in early August.
“What they did confirm is their counterpart in China, AQSIQ, has sent the U.S. draft protocol to an interagency review process. They’ve sent it to another Chinese agency for review.”
Klein was keen to make sure everyone understands “that doesn’t mean AQSIQ hasn’t made technical changes to what APHIS sent over in August. They may have. We just don’t know because AQSIQ hasn’t gotten back to APHIS with their reaction to the draft.
“We’re optimistic and think the U.S. rice industry is united behind that last draft. That included a lot of concessions to the Chinese and asked them for some reasonable concessions, as well. We are confident the Chinese could agree to it but there’s been no confirmation they have.
“There will certainly be no signing next week, which was rumored. We asked APHIS officials about that. ‘Are you sure there will be no signing next week?’ They said, ‘that’s correct.’”
Klein said the federation also “asked point-blank, ‘The USRPA has a press release saying the Chinese have requested the signing be in Beijing. True?’ The response from APHIS was ‘that’s speculative.’
“There simply was no deal to be delayed. There was some wishful thinking that the signing would take place next week. You know, ‘Hey, the right people are coming to D.C. next week. It would be great to have a signing.’ But without a deal, there’s nothing to sign.”
Asked for a statement, Dwight Roberts, USRPA president, said on the call, “We were told by U.S. government sources today that the protocol had not completed the Chinese ‘administrative clearance’ that was to have been completed in time for the Chinese delegation’s visit to Washington, D.C. as APHIS previously had expected.
“In the meantime there is absolutely no indication that there is anything other than a green light towards finalization of this process.”