U.S. exporters: Remove trade barriers
The impact of tariffs on U.S. seafood exporters was among the topics broached on Wednesday at a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing titled, "Marine Wealth: Promoting Conservation and Advancing American Exports."
Rod Moore, executive director of the West Coast Seafood Processors Association in Portland, Ore., and Tom Bastoni, VP of American Pride Seafoods' scallop division in New Bedford, Mass., testified on behalf of seafood exporters in front of the subcommittee on international trade, customs and global competitiveness, while the World Wildlife Fund's David Schorr and actor Ted Danson, an Oceana board member, spoke on behalf of the environmental community.
Both Moore and Bastoni asked the U.S. government to work with their European Union counterparts to minimize or eliminate trade barriers, such as tariffs, on seafood products. Moore said Canadian shrimp processors are at an advantage in the European market because U.S.-caught Pacific shrimp (Pandalus jordani) is subject to a 20 percent tariff, while Canada's Atlantic shrimp (Pandalus borealis), which is virtually identical to P. jordani, is now subject to no tariff.
"Originally, the tariff structure was put in place to protect the European industry. In recent years, however, the bulk of coldwater shrimp entering Europe has been from Canada, which has built up its own harvesting and processing capability. More important, the Canadian government has taken an active role in supporting its industry in seeking tariff concessions with European governments," said Moore.
"Given the importance that the seafood industry plays in the American economy and especially in our coastal areas by creating good-paying jobs, American taxpayers will be done a disservice if our trade agencies continue to approach our industry's overseas challenges with … apathy," he added.
Bastoni concurred, emphasizing that industry alone cannot prevent trade and regulatory barriers. He pointed to the EU's temporary ban on live or raw mollusks from the United States, in place because differences regarding health-certificate standards have not yet been resolved.
"This situation also highlights the problems with so-called ‘equivalency requirements' in international food-safety regulations. All nations, including the United States, should refrain from such requirements that are unnecessary to assure imported food is safe and wholesome," said Bastoni. "It often requires a partnership between U.S. government agencies, working with industry, to ensure seafood products can continue to be exported to current markets or break into new markets."
On the other hand, Danson testified to the subcommittee about the adverse effects of fishing subsidies, including overfishing, on the marine environment.
"Despite international consensus about the depleted state of the oceans, many governments continue to provide major subsidies to their fishing sectors," he said. "Subsidies not only distort markets and support uneconomic activities, but are a major incentive to overfishing and other destructive fishing practices."
National Marine Fisheries Service Administrator Eric Schwaab and Mark Linscott, assistant U.S. trade representative for environment and natural resources, also testified at Wednesday's hearing.