More than 20 Chinese shrimp producers have united to form an alliance to fight anti-dumping charges in the United States.
The US Southern Shrimp Alliance filed a suit Wednesday with the US Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission (ITC) against farm-raised shrimp from China, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Brazil and Ecuador.
The US alliance claimed the six countries had dumped shrimp on the US market at below cost prices, triggering a plunge in the value of US-harvested shrimp from US$1.25 billion in 2000 to US$559 million in 2002.
Chinese shrimp farmers from Guangdong, Guangxi and Fujian have given notice to the ITC, via their US lawyers, that they intend to respond to the case.
The US industry group represents shrimpers in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.
The Chinese alliance's spokesman said Chinese shrimp exporters in the southern province of Guangdong knew a year ago that the US alliance was considering lawsuits against shrimp imports from China, and founded the Alliance of Guangdong's Shrimp Exporters Responding to US Anti-dumping Charges. It employed lawyers from Beijing, Guangdong and Washington to prepare for their case.
Having received the investigation notice from the ITC, the alliance convened immediately despite the New Year holiday, and shrimp producers and exporters from provinces like Guangxi, Fujian, Liaoning joined the group.
The organization is considering changing its name to the South China Shrimpers Alliance.
The alliance says China is expected to face the highest rate of duties -- between 119 percent and 267 percent -- of the six countries named in the suit.
The Chinese alliance said the US shrimpers group's claims were groundless, as the American Seafood Distributors Association said in a statement, "These countries can produce shrimp at a much lower cost through farming than can domestic fishermen, who face very high and rapidly increasing fuel, gear, and labor costs.
"The domestic shrimp industry has failed to anticipate the dramatic change in production methods from fishing to farming," the association added.
The European Union and Japan have recently clamped down on shrimp imports because of health concerns about antibiotics in farm-raised shrimp. That forced many exporters into the US market, and contributed to the downward slide in prices.
One Chinese shrimp producer said, "The Chinese government gives no subsidies to the shrimping industry. If we sell at below-cost prices or prices lower than in the domestic market, we can't afford it."
Chinese shrimp exports are mainly from southern China. Shrimp exports are a major source of income for fishermen in coastal areas, and Guangdong is the most important shrimp producing area in the country.
Guangdong's shrimp exports to the United States are estimated at US$100 million annually, which will be "hit badly" if the anti-dumping tariffs were imposed.
Other Asian shrimp exporters like Vietnam and India are also preparing to fight the US lawsuit, which they described was an example of blatant protectionism.
(Xinhua News Agency January 7, 2004)