December 19, 2003

 

Mexican and American Shrimpers Cooperate Against Cheap Imports

 

Shrimpers from Mexico and America will cooperate to prevent the encroachment of cheap pond-raised shrimp imports from flooding the U.S. market.


The Southern Shrimp Alliance (SSA) and the National Chamber of Fishing and Aquaculture Industries of Mexico said in a joint statement that the two groups would "cooperate to the best of their abilities to jointly oppose unfair trade in shrimp."

 

"The flood of unfairly traded shrimp injures both the U.S. and Mexican shrimp industries and must be offset through strong enforcement of the trade laws in our two countries," the groups said.

 

"Basically you have a situation where Mexico exports to the U.S. market and the unfair trade hurts them as well," said Deborah Regan, a spokeswoman for the SSA.

 

The National Chamber of Fishing and Aquaculture Industries, or CANAINPESCA, represents fishermen and processors in Mexico. The SSA represents fishermen, processors and distributors in eight Southern states, from North Carolina to Texas.

 

The SSA plans to file an antidumping petition against several South American and Southeast Asian countries by the end of the year. Southern shrimpers, who have been hit by plummeting prices over the past two years, believe tariffs on imported shrimp could right their industry.

 

"There are good importers and there are bad importers. This is not about imported shrimp, it is about people who have violated fair trade agreements," said Eddie Gordon, the SSA president. He would not specify which countries allegedly dump on the U.S. market.

 

Carlos Hussong, the president of CANAINPESCA, could not be reached for comment.

 

The petition will be filed in Washington, D.C., by the Dewey Ballantine law firm. If the U.S. Department of Commerce determines that the SSA has standing to represent the industry, the International Trade Commission then will rule on whether the shrimp industry has been injured or could be injured by illegal dumping.

 

The group has been rounding up money to pay for the costly petition.

 

"We have enough money to proceed and cover the initial phases," Gordon said without disclosing how much the group has raised.

 

The SSA and CANAINPESCA agreed to work together during meetings earlier this week.

 

The Mexican fishing group could provide both legal and financial support to the U.S. antidumping effort, said Deborah Regan, an SSA spokeswoman.

 

She added that getting Mexican fishermen on their side will help to neutralize potential gripes about Americans acting like a "bully".

 

"With Mexico on our side it demonstrates that there are others who believe there is unfair trade and they are harmed by it," Regan said.

 

According to SSA figures, the dumping of shrimp from Southeast Asian and South American countries cut the value of the U.S. shrimp harvest in half between 2000 and 2002 - from $1.2 billion to $559 million.

 

The group also contends that there was a 40% drop in employment at U.S. shrimp processing plants during that period.

 

The SSA argues that shrimp began to be dumped on the United States after the European Union cracked down in 2001 on shrimp from China and Vietnam because of concerns over two harmful antibiotics - chloramphenicol and nitrofurans. Japan also has tightened its health requirements for shrimp.

 

Also, the EU raised tariffs on Thai shrimp in 2001 to rates as high as 20%.

 

The SSA says that U.S. health officials tolerate levels of some chemicals by 500 times higher than EU standards.