A coalition of shrimp producers in the Gulf region filed a petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission on Friday asking for imposition of countervailing duties on imported shrimp from seven countries because of alleged unfair subsidies.
The industry group says the governments of China, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are subsidizing exporters in those countries, artificially lowering the price charged in the United States and making it difficult for U.S. shrimp farmers and fishermen to compete for sales.
The duties are necessary to offset the price disparity from unfair trade practices, the Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries said. Since 2009, shrimp producers in the seven countries have gained U.S. market share by aggressively undercutting domestic prices after receiving billions of dollars in grants, low-interest loans, donations of land and shrimp feed, shrimp-farm investments, export credits, tax breaks and other forms of assistance from their respective governments, it said.
"Today's filing is about the survival of the entire U.S. shrimp industry," C. David Veal, executive director of the Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries, said in a statement.
Subsidy examples cited by the coalition include the government of Thailand buying shrimp from farmers and providing the shrimp to processors at below market prices and India subsidizing shrimp processors' ocean freight costs. India also provides a bonus for exports to the United States.
The group has battled against foreign competition for many years by seeking trade remedies, including duties for anti-dumping.
"The Gulf shrimp community can compete with shrimp industries located anywhere in the world, but we can no longer compete with the deep pockets of foreign governments," Edward T. Hayes, the coalition's counsel, said. "Imports dominate the market, and their unfair pricing is making it harder and harder for U.S. producers to cover their costs of production, much less make a reasonable return."
The countries covered by the petitions exported $4.3 billion worth of shrimp to the United States in 2011, accounting for 85 percent of imports and more than three-fourths of the domestic market, according to the petition. - Eric Kulisch