Thailand accused of dumping canned tuna

By

Steven Hedlund

Published on
May 19, 2010

U.S. Rep. Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa is asking the U.S. Department of Commerce to open an antidumping investigation on canned tuna imported from Thailand, suggesting that Thai exporters are selling tuna in the U.S. market below cost or fair market value, an illegal practice called “dumping.”

“Given Thailand’s surge in the marketplace and private label now taking over nearly 30 percent of the U.S. market, I have asked the U.S. Department of Commerce to open an antidumping investigation,” said Faleomavaega.

“I believe any petition put forward should come from our displaced cannery workers and, if they wish to pursue this avenue, I stand prepared to help them, especially since Thailand has become the world’s largest canned tuna producer and processes a large percentage of tuna caught in the Pacific region,” he added. “Thailand is the leader in supplying tuna to the United States, and the low cost of labor (at about USD 0.75 cents per hour) provides Thailand with a trade advantage.”

Faleomavaega’s comments come as he thanked StarKist for not closing its American Samoa tuna cannery entirely. The Pittsburgh-based company announced last week that it’s shedding 600 to 800 jobs at the facility, leaving less than 1,200 workers.

Last September, Chicken of the Sea closed its American Samoa tuna cannery.

Both companies cited the 2007 federal law mandating an increase in minimum wages, which it says has made it difficult to compete with workers’ wages that are nearly 10 times lower in Thailand and other countries. Cannery workers’ current minimum wage of USD 4.76 an hour is set to increase by USD 0.50 cents on 30 September and reach USD 7.25 per hour by 2014. Faleomavaega is pushing for a delay in the increase.

Faleomavaega has been fighting to save American Samoa’s tuna cannery jobs. Last September, he introduced a bill that would provide subsidies to companies that deliver seafood to American Samoa to be processed. The bill is intended to protect the territory’s seafood-processing jobs, as its private-sector economy is more than 80 percent dependent on tuna processing and fishing, according to Faleomavaega.

“Whether or not Thailand is dumping remains to be seen,” said Faleomavaega. “But what is certain is that the tuna industry has changed tremendously over the course of the past 50 years.”

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