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US Shrimp Ruling Angers Producers
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Chinese shrimp producers said Wednesday that the US decision to impose high duties on their exports is unfair and that it is US consumers who will pay the cost. 

The Bush administration’s Department of Commerce made a preliminary ruling on Tuesday that China and Vietnam were dumping shrimp in the United States below market prices.


It proposed duties that vary widely, from as low as 7.6 percent to 112.0 percent for China and from 12.1 percent to 93.1 percent for Vietnam.


An official from the Chinese Shrimp Industry Alliance, an organization formed because of the dumping charges, said producers are able to sell at prices far below those of American shrimp producers because they had invested in modern technology for their shrimp farms and have lower labor costs.


“We are simply more efficient than the US industry, which mostly harvests shrimp from the sea,” he said.


He said it was unreasonable for the US government to protect its feeble shrimp industry to the detriment of a more advanced foreign industry and US consumers.


Shrimp is the most popular seafood in the United States, where imports account for 95 percent of the shrimp consumed.


Jiang Mingkai, a manager from the Zhonglian Aquatic Product Co, one of China’s largest shrimp producers, said the producers are not selling below market price.


The company exported 3,600 tons of shrimp at a price of US$5,000 a ton last year.


“We can’t afford to sell at below cost or at prices lower than in the domestic market,” he said.


Shrimp exports are a major source of income for fishermen in coastal areas. They will be hit badly if the anti-dumping tariffs are imposed.


The Chinese Shrimp Industry Alliance estimates that China exported US$800 million worth of shrimp in 2003, half of that to the United States.


The US Southern Shrimp Alliance filed a suit on December 31 last year, looking for tariffs of up to 349 percent on shrimp from Brazil, 264 percent from China, 166 percent from Ecuador, 110 percent from India, 58 percent from Thailand and 93 percent from Vietnam.


The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers also expressed anger in a written statement, in which it vehemently protested the preliminary ruling.


“The unjust decision will have an adverse impact on the livelihood of millions of shrimp farmers in the coastal areas and thousands workers in shrimp processing factories in Vietnam as well as causing direct damage to shrimp consumers,” it said.


The US Department of Commerce ruled on China and Vietnam separately because the two countries are regarded as non-market economies. Decisions on the other four will come at the end of this month.


The commerce department will issue its final decision in January, but the preliminary duties will be levied from the end of the week and will probably lead to higher consumer prices in the long term.


There would be a price rise of about 44 percent for US consumers if the duties on shipments from China, Vietnam and the four other targeted countries take effect, said Wally Stevens, president of the Shrimp Task Force, an alliance of seafood distributors, restaurants and consumer groups that opposes penalties against shrimp imports.


(China Daily July 8, 2004)

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