North Korea-related trade issues scaring US seafood importers

Published on
November 9, 2017

Tensions in Asia over North Korea and proposed financial sanctions against that country currently under discussion by the U.S. Senate Banking Committee are concerning some seafood industry executives.

Robert Bleu, president of True World Foods, a Rockleigh, New Jersey-based food company that specializes in supplying Asian markets and sushi restaurants, told Fox Business he’s concerned the seafood industry will suffer damage as a result of the rising tensions between the United States and North Korea. 

“Fish and agriculture are like the normal whipping boys of trade disputes,” he said. “A big worry for us would be does the pressure squirt out into tit-for-tat trade retaliation, [of] which the U.S. fish industry would be a likely recipient?”

True World spokesperson Stephanie Jimenez told SeafoodSource Bleu has convened panel discussions “with prominent government and industry experts in Washington, D.C. to examine the issues as well as risk mitigation strategies.”

“New sanctions intended to put financial pressure on North Korea may lead to unintended consequences for the seafood industry, including challenges in feeding the North American appetite for sushi,” Jimenez said.

Bleu told Fox Business that seafood companies are already scrambling to ensure they are not accidentally selling any products that have been produced by outsourced North Korean laborers – an issue raised by an Associated Press investigation published last month. 

With U.S. President Donald Trump floating the idea of instituting secondary sanctions on countries that do business with North Korea, seafood businesses are even more on edge, Bleu said. China is a major trading partner of both North Korea and the United States, and any distribution in the relationship between the U.S. and China will have major repercussions on the U.S. seafood industry.

 “Much of the U.S. supply chain comes out of Asia, so we’re right in the middle of this thing,” he said. “China is by far, by far, by far the largest fish farmer in the world. [They provide] a lot of imports to the U.S., [so any major trade changes there] would lead to significantly higher seafood prices.”

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