New US probe of Thai shrimp
WASHINGTON - The US Commerce Department said Sunday it may impose duties on $4.2 billion a year in shrimp, more than half of it imported from Thailand, for allegedly getting unfair government subsidies.
- Published: 21/01/2013 at 12:21 AM
- Newspaper section: topstories
Shrimp in the US now typically come frozen, in a bag or box, from Thailand, with labelling in several languages for sale in Chinese-owned supermarkets and in Canada.
China, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia also are subject to possible penalties for "dumping" - selling shrimp in the US at prices below local markets. But Thailand, which supplies more a quarter of the US shrimp market, stands to suffer the most.
Thailand has been the biggest producer of shrimp to the US market for years - bigger than the US shrimp industry. The International Trade Administration said Thailand was the leading exporter of the seven, shipping $1.6 billion worth of shrimp to the US in 2011.
The Commercial Affairs of the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington reported last week that from January to October of last year, the US imported $973 million worth of shrimp from Thailand - 28.92 billion baht, representing more than a quarter of all shrimp imports by the US.
Frozen shrimp in a bag, from Thailand, show a number (21/25) indicating approximately how many shrimp per pound are included.
Subsidised imports since 2009 have "suppressed and depressed domestic prices," undercutting US sales and destroying jobs, the Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries said in a Dec 28 statement announcing its request for an investigation.
"Without relief, we fear that these unfair foreign subsidies could eventually drive our domestic industry to extinction," the coalition, a group of about 30 domestic processors and seafood companies, said.
Shrimp from the seven countries subject to the investigation account for about 85 per cent of all US imports of the shellfish, according to the coalition.
It is the third such investigation of allegations of dumping by Thai exporters. Similar charges by the US industry in 2004 and 2008 resulted in small fines that did not hurt the country's competitiveness in the US market.
Americans each year consume more than one billion pounds (454 million kilogrammes) of shrimp, the nation's most popular seafood, according to the US International Trade Commission.
The product has also long been the subject of trade disputes. A commission ruling in 2011 allowed the extension of duties to prevent shrimp imports from Thailand, Brazil, China and India from being sold in the US below production costs.
Vietnam has taken the case to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which rules against the US in several similar cases.
The WTO said that Washington relied on a wrong method of calculating dumping - known as the Byrd Amendment after the US Senator who applied it. After the WTO defeats, the US moved to withdraw numerous accusations it had made against countries that export seafood to the US.
The Commerce Department's investigation covers frozen shrimp that is packed in marinade, spices or sauce, but not fresh, canned or breaded shrimp.
The agency said it plans to announce its preliminary findings on the request for anti-subsidy duties around March 25 and final determinations around June 6. The International Trade Commission determines whether the domestic industry has been harmed by subsidies from other governments and is scheduled to make its decision by Feb 11.
"We commend the Department of Commerce for initiating these seven investigations," David Veal, Executive Director of the shimp coalition said in an e-mailed statement.
Two of the nations cited in the complaint, Vietnam and Malaysia, are part of Pacific-region trade talks with the US.
About the author
- Writer: BangkokPost.com with Agency reports