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EU set to slap tariffs on rice from Cambodia, Myanmar

BRUSSELS, Dec 3 (Reuters) - The European Commission will on Tuesday propose imposing tariffs on rice coming from Cambodia and Myanmar to curb a surge in imports that it believes is damaging to European producers.

The proposed "safeguard" measures would apply for three years, setting a duty of 175 euros ($198.84) per tonne in the first year, dropping to 150 euros in the second and 125 euros in year three, according to people familiar with the plan.

The two countries benefit from the EU's "Everything But Arms" scheme that allows the least developed countries to export most goods to the European Union free of duties.

"However, it is important also to ensure that EU farmers and producers are not the ones to pay the price for excessively cheap imports," a Commission spokesman said.

Both countries already face losing their special access to the world's largest trading bloc over their human rights records, although this potential sanction is separate from the proposed safeguard measures.

The Commission, which oversees trade policy for the 28-member European Union, opened an investigation into rice imports from the two countries in March following a complaint by the Italian government.

"The findings of this investigation confirm a significant surge in imports of rice that has caused economic damage to the rice sector in Europe," the Commission spokesman said.

EU farming group Copa-Cogeca says that 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.

EU member states will take a final decision on Tuesday and are expected to back the Commission's proposal given that rice is grown in eight southern European countries from Portugal to Bulgaria. ($1 = 0.8801 euros) (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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