US shrimp producers celebrate Commerce Department decision on Vietnamese imports

Published on
July 26, 2017

Domestic shrimp producers scored a recent victory as a federal appellate court upheld a decision by the Department of Commerce to change how it assesses imports from Vietnam.

Late last month, the U.S. Department of International Trade approved the change by Commerce officials to adjust the duty assessment rates from Vietnam. Because the southeast Asian country does not have a market economy, U.S. officials must use an applicable country with a similarly sized economy to set the valuations.

In previous years, Commerce officials used rates from Bangladesh. However, this year, a group of domestic vessel owners and processors complained, citing the federal government’s actions against Bangladesh for labor abuses. The group, the Ad Hoc Shrimp Trade Action Committee, filed suit and the courts ordered a reevaluation of the department’s decision.

Upon reconsideration, Commerce officials chose to evaluate Vietnamese imports based on wage data from India, noting that the world’s second-most populated country does not have the track record of labor abuse in the shrimp trade as does its neighbor to the east.

"By upholding the agency's dumping calculations this morning, the Federal Circuit has validated the immense amount of time and effort Commerce officials invested in making sure that our trade laws effectively responded to unfair trade," John Williams, the executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, one of the organizers of the ad hoc committee, said following the decision. "On behalf of the U.S. shrimp industry, the Southern Shrimp Alliance congratulates Commerce and expresses its continued appreciation for the agency's commitment to fair trade."

The decision means select importers owe a higher antidumping duty for shrimp imported in a 12-month period beginning in February 2013. The rate jumped from 1.16 percent to 1.42 percent as a result of the court’s approval of the redetermination.

A similar appeal for imports from a year earlier is still ongoing, said Nathan Rickard, an attorney representing the ad hoc committee.

Companies that import products into the United States pay a cash deposit, from which the government applies the duties. Commerce conducts such administrative reviews on a periodic basis to update and assess duties. Rickard said the next review is expected to be completed next year. In an interview last week, he said the trade committee will urge Commerce officials to reject the Bangladeshi comparison for future levies. 

Shrimp exports are a major part of Vietnam’s economy, as the country earned USD 1.56 billion (EUR 1.34 billion) from sales in the first half of 2017, according to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Processors. It represents an increase of nearly 16 percent from last year.

The U.S. used to be the top market for those exports, however, VASEP noted that Japan is now the leading importer.

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