The United States slapped punitive tariffs on shrimp imports from China and Vietnam, saying a preliminary investigation showed the two countries were "dumping" at artificially low prices.
The duties will range from 7.67 percent to 112.81 percent on shrimp from China and between 12.11 percent and 92.13 percent on imports from Vietnam. The ruling affects about one billion dollars worth of imports from the two countries.
The duties may be adjusted, but will be collected until a final ruling by the quasi-judicial International Trade Commission next January.
The Commerce Department said its preliminary probe found that with the exception of one Chinese producer, all of the other producers of frozen and canned warm-water shrimp were being sold "at less than fair value."
In the case of Chinese imports, the Commerce Department found there were "critical circumstances" for the US industry affected, meaning duties can be imposed 90 days retroactively.
The industries petitioning in the case had been seeking duties of between 30 percent and more than 200 percent for shrimp and prawns from Brazil, China, Ecuador, India, Thailand and Vietnam.
A decision against the four other countries was expected July 28, according to the US producers seeking the tariffs.
The case is among the latest in a series of trade spats with China. It also has sparked an outcry from Vietnam, which faces similar penalties for catfish exports and has called the US effort protectionist.
Although the tariffs were not as high as requested by the industry, Southern Shrimp Alliance President Eddie Gordon praised the decisions as "a critical step on the road to recovery for tens of thousands of fishermen, farmers and processors devastated by the massive volume of dumped Chinese and Vietnamese shrimp."
Gordon said the US industry "is fighting for survival and on the brink of extinction from the tidal wave of dumped foreign shrimp," which are mostly farmed compared with the mainly wild-caught shrimp in the US.
But the Shrimp Task Force, abroad trade coalition opposing tariffs, called the duties a "needless tax on American consumers."
"The Commerce Department's preliminary calculation of dumping rates is unjustified and very troubling," said Wally Stevens, chairman of the task force.
"The Bush administration has made a misguided trade policy decision that could have serious adverse consequences ... The duties announced today will do nothing to help US shrimp dealers' long-term problems, while needlessly penalizing both American consumers and workers in shrimp consuming industries all across the country."
The group predicts a jump of as much as 44 percent in shrimp prices if antidumping duties are imposed.
"This case is far from over," continued Stevens. "The Shrimp Task Force will continue to fight to lower or altogether eliminate this unjustified food tax, just as we will fight against the threat of duties on shrimp from the four other targeted countries."
(China Daily July 7, 2004)