December 20, 2004
US Commerce Department to Rule on South American, Asian Shrimp Imports
The U.S. government will decide Monday whether to uphold tariffs on shrimp from four major shrimp-producing countries in Asia and South America.
The U.S. Commerce Department's International Trade Administration ruled in July that the nation should slap tariffs on frozen and canned shrimp from Brazil, Ecuador, India and Thailand. Trade officials are expected to announce Monday what adjustments, if any, will be made to the preliminary ruling.
In the current ruling, Brazilian exporters faced the stiffest duties, ranging up to 68 percent. Government proposed duties are between 4 and 27 percent for Indian exporters; 6 to 10 percent for Thai exporters and 6 to 9 percent for Ecuadorians businesses.
On Nov. 30, tariffs on China and Vietnam were upheld with slight modifications.
All six countries have been targeted by the anti-dumping petition. The six countries accounted for about 75 percent of the shrimp eaten by Americans when the petition was filed on Dec. 31, 2003.
But imports from the six countries have dropped since the U.S. government ruled that they dumped shrimp. Yet overall imports have dropped only by about 2 percent since last December, when U.S. shrimp processors filed the petition for tariffs.
Imports from other countries - including Indonesia, Bangladesh, Honduras and Venezuela - all picked up.
"We did an analysis in the first nine months of the year and we saw non-subject imports have replaced subject imports almost on a one-to-one basis. In general, one pound in deduction equalled a one pound increase," said Warren Connelly, a lawyer representing Ecuador in the trade case who opposes the tariffs.
While imports overall have not decreased much, the Southern Shrimp Alliance, which organized the drive for tariffs, says shrimp prices have been shored up by the trade action.
"In general the industry is much more hopeful as they see prices are stabilizing and they hope that once the antidumping duties are in place and fully enforced they will have the intended impact of offsetting market distortions," said Deborah Long, a Southern Shrimp Alliance spokeswoman.
The group, which represents eight Southern states, claims that the value of the U.S. harvest dropped by more than half between 2000 and 2002 - from $1.25 billion to $560 million because of cheap imports.
But some businesses have complained that prices have not gone up at the dock, leaving fishermen still struggling to make ends meet.
A.J. Fabre, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, said prices for domestic shrimp are selling for more on the market but that they are still very low for fishermen.
"Prices haven't stabilized at all," Fabre said. "Prices have dropped, but the shrimp index on the open market has gone up. So something is screwy out there."
He alleged that shrimp processors are reaping high profits on the backs of fishermen. "There's no advantage if the processors don't want to pay us the price."
Tariffs are meant to drive up prices for U.S. workers and producers who have allegedly suffered from unfair trade.
"That's the ultimate proof in the pudding: You hope to increase prices," Connelly said. The jury is still out on that, he added.
The cases against all six countries will go back to the U.S. International Trade Commission for a final ruling early next year on the issue of whether shrimp imports are harming the domestic industry. If, as expected, the commission upholds its preliminary finding of harm, the antidumping tariffs will become final.