ITC: Shrimp tariffs for select Asian countries should continue
The United States International Trade Commission voted to continue anti-dumping duties on shrimp from four Asian countries for the next five years. However, the ITC said that duties on Brazilian shrimp imports should not continue.
The ITC determined that “revoking the existing antidumping duty orders on imports of frozen warmwater shrimp from China, India, Thailand, and Vietnam would be likely to lead to continuation or recurrence of material injury within a reasonably foreseeable time,” the ITC said in a statement.
In related news, several legislators asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to investigate the safety of seafood imported into the U.S.
The ITC decision is “good news for our industry. All we have ever asked is for fair trade in the shrimp industry,” John Williams, executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, told SeafoodSource. “The bottom line is that, if these countries focus on fair trade and abandon illegal trade, this would all go away.”
“We in the domestic shrimp industry look forward to five additional years of relief from unfair foreign trade practices,” said David Veal, executive director of American Shrimp Processors Association.
“We are pleased that the USITC validated the data and evidence we presented, which we believe clearly showed the harm that these imports would cause to the domestic industry if the orders were revoked,” ASPA Gulf Counsel Edward T. Hayes said.
Brazil was likely exempted from the five-year duty extension because the country “has not exported shrimp to the U.S. for a very long time,” Williams said.
At hearings in Washington, D.C., in mid-March, members ASPA and other groups urged the TIC to keep the duties in place.
“If the orders were revoked, we would see what we saw in the early 2000s: flooding the U.S. market with [foreign] shrimp,” Chalin Delaune, chairman of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board and vice president of Tommy’s Seafood in New Orleans, Louisiana, told SeafoodSource at the 2017 Seafood Expo North America last month.
On the other hand, Performance Food Group, Costco and Publix Super Markets – which represent around 200 million pounds of purchasing power, according to Delaune – said the duties should not continue.
Meanwhile, U.S. Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT) urged the GAO to investigate the “food safety and any remaining gaps in the oversight of imported seafood that are potentially dangerous to the public health of American citizens,” they wrote in a letter to the agency.
“Because of the high rate of bacterial infection in farm-raised seafood, overseas producers often use antimicrobial agents…The risk of residue is signficiant, and the health repercussions may be severe,” the legislators wrote.
Around 94 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported. About half of the imported seafood is farm-raised, and there are “serious problems” in the food safety system for imported seafood, they wrote.
The National Fisheries Institute, the U.S. seafood industry trade organization, which has been an aggressive supporter of the Food Safety Modernization Act and is part of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, said it supported the legislators’ attention to issues of food safety.
“We appreciate vigilance on food safety issues from the Hill. It is always a good idea to insure that regulators are working at an optimal level,” Gavin Gibbons, vice president of communications for the National Fisheries Institute, told SeafoodSource.
However, a recent CDC study shows that FDA continues to have a strong track record in imported seafood safety, according to Gibbons.
“Over essentially the last two decades, there have been 390,000 reported illnesses from food. Imported seafood is responsible for only 0.31 percent of those illnesses. While we’d prefer that number be zero, less than one half of one percent is impressive.”
Still, the legislators wrote to GAO asking it to address several questions, such as: “What criteria does FDA use in developing import alerts for food products, including seafood, and, once FDA has identified a problem, how long does it take, on average, for FDA to put the product, producer, country, or region on an import alert?”