NFI urges cut in U.S. tariffs to boost exports

Published on
May 22, 2017

The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) encouraged the reduction of tariffs on United States seafood exports at public hearing before regulators in Washington, D.C., on 18 May.

Meanwhile, the American Shrimp Processors Association urged more restrictions on seafood imports from other countries in order to cut the United States’ significant overall trade deficit.

The U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Trade Representative asked for public comments on an executive order, “Omnibus Report on Significant Trade Deficits,” which impacts U.S. trade deficits with 13 countries: Canada, China, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

“Addressing the U.S. goods trade deficit with any one of the 13 nations/blocs of nations identified by the department should focus on opening markets for American seafood, reducing overseas tariffs, and eliminating non-tariff barriers,” NFI President John Connelly said at the hearing. “Fully 95 percent of world’s consumers and nearly 80 percent of consumer purchasing power lie outside of the United States, and both numbers are likely to rise in the future.”

For example, per capita seafood consumption in Japan is 300 percent higher than in the U.S., and U.S. seafood exports to Japan were USD 681 million (EUR 608 million) in 2016, Connelly said.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership would have immediately eliminated and phased out Japan duties on U.S. roe, surimi, and cod,” Connelly said. “This would have allowed domestic fishermen, and particularly fishermen on the Pacific coast, to exploit opportunities in a country that already has a high opinion of the U.S. harvest, and in the process would help narrow the U.S. trade deficit with the nation’s closest Pacific Rim ally.” 

In addition, implementation of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, a recently signed trade deal between Canada and the European Union, has placed U.S. exporters at a competitive disadvantage, according to Connelly. 

“For instance, Canada and the U.S. sell the same species of live lobster to E.U. customers. Under the CETA, Canada lobsters will soon enter the Common Market duty- free and quota-free, while U.S. companies must continue to pay 8 percent duty,” Connelly said. “Similar problems confront U.S. fishermen hoping to export their pollock, halibut, hake, dogfish, oysters, snow crab, and other products to a market that now numbers 510 million people.”

The E.U. has also barred all U.S. exports of molluscan shellfish, such as clams, based on “unsubstantiated and unwarranted” claims of deficiencies in U.S. food safety regulations, since 2009, Connelly said.

“This outright ban in many cases affects premium shellfish products with ready E.U. buyers and – because it has been honored by non-E.U. European countries – has a larger impact than is apparent at first blush. It is precisely the kind of unscientific non-tariff barrier that if addressed would stimulate new exports, narrowing the nation’s trade deficit with the European Union in the process,” Connelly said.

Meanwhile, the ASPA said that the USD 10.5 billion (EUR 9.4 billion) U.S. trade deficit in 2016 is the result of “unfair and illegal trade practices, including persistent dumping in the U.S. market and subsidization by foreign governments.”

“For decades, our shrimp industry has faced surging imports of farm-raised shrimp produced overseas,” ASPA Executive Director David Veal said. “As a result, the U.S. trade deficit in shrimp is substantial and growing."

The U.S. trade deficit in shrimp totaled USD 4.49 billion (EUR 4 billion) in 2016, according to ASPA, particularly from India, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, China, and Malaysia. 

“The deficit of USD 3.44 billion (EUR 3.1 billion) with these nations is 77 percent of the total shrimp trade deficit. And, the deficit in shrimp from those seven countries has increased 44 percent since 2012,” ASPA said in a statement.

While the International Trade Commission voted in early May to extend the current antidumping orders on shrimp from China, India, Thailand and Vietnam for an additional five years, the orders “have limited coverage and still allow large volumes of unfairly traded shrimp to enter the United States,” ASPA said.

Contributing Editor

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