ITC stops shrimp duties

Warren Connelly, the attorney representing Ecuador’s National Chamber of Aquaculture, was in the room in Washington Friday morning when the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) voted 4-2 that trade subsidies from seven nations, including Ecuador, do not harm the domestic shrimp industry enough to warrant countervailing action.

“Joy,” Connelly said when asked for his reaction. “What else? It’s hard to win these cases.”

The vote, according to the ITC, showed it had made “negative determinations in its final phase countervailing duty investigations” and setting duties on shrimp imported from China, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Ecuador.

The battle started when the Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries filed a petition on behalf of its 28 member companies. The petition accused the seven countries of subsidizing their shrimp industries, making imported shrimp from those countries cheaper than domestic shrimp. If regulators found in favor of the coalition, those seven nations could have faced heavy countervailing duties on shrimp exports.

In May, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) announced its preliminary determination on the shrimp. While Ecuador and Indonesia escaped without any collectable duties (most producers were assigned rates less than 1 percent), the DOC found that many producers and exporters received countervailable subsidies.

In a follow-up ruling, the DOC reversed itself on Thailand and Ecuador, levying duties against the latter nation after all.

But the ITC ruling, the last step in the process, negates the DOC’s decision, meaning none of the seven nations, subsidies or not, will have to pay the duties. Connelly had said he was “shocked” with the DOC’s August decision, and said today’s ITC vote is more in line with the facts.

“We have maintained from the start that the domestic shrimp industry has not suffered any adverse effects from imported warmwater shrimp, and we are gratified that the ITC Commissioners agreed with the extensive factual and legal analyses that we submitted,” Connelly said.

Connelly, with the Akin Gump law firm, said the ITC’s decision is “all the more gratifying” considering the roller-coaster Ecuador has been on.

The ITC offered no explanations for its decision. Further details are expected in a longer report the ITC will release in the coming weeks.


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