U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today advocated the enforcement of trade rules that would allow the U.S. shrimp industry to compete with international competition on a level playing field.
Cochran on Tuesday submitted testimony to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) for an investigative hearing on the economic threat to the U.S. shrimp industry posed by foreign subsidies from China, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
"The Gulf shrimp industry is important to Mississippi's economy, contributing to thousands of jobs and over a hundred million in annual economic output. Unfortunately the recent surge in imports due to foreign subsidy programs has been a detriment to these jobs and the industry as a whole. While I support maintaining strong international trade relations, it is important that our trading partners play by the rules," Cochran said in his testimony.
The USITC hearing precedes a final determination by U.S. Department of Commerce on whether to impose countervailing duties against unfairly subsidized shrimp imports. The Commerce Department could make a final determination this month.
"American businesses rely on the International Trade Commission to enforce our trade laws and to help ensure our domestic workers can compete fairly in the international marketplace," said Cochran, the ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.
"I am pleased the International Trade Commission is taking the necessary steps to ensure that the shrimping industry on the Gulf Coast is protected from unfairly subsidized shrimp imports. I hope that this investigation will lead to action which will allow the domestic shrimp industry to compete on a level playing field," he said.
Cochran has worked to ensure competitive fairness for a traditional industry that in 2012 harvested 13 million pounds of shrimp, valued at more than $24 million dollars. In addition to fighting subsidized foreign imports, the shrimping industry on the Gulf Coast has also been adversely affected by tragedies like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
In late May, the Commerce Department announced preliminary affirmative countervailing duty determinations on frozen warmwater shrimp imports, indicating that government subsidies from China, India, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam pose an economic threat to the U.S. shrimp industry on the Gulf Coast. The determination found that the average government subsidy rate has been more than 9 percent, based on the overall volume of imports from these five nations.
In February, Cochran encouraged the International Trade Administration to act on the determination from the USITC that the U.S. shrimp industry is being harmed by imported frozen warmwater shrimp. The USITC found that U.S. shrimpers are being "materially injured" by unfairly-subsidized imports from countries at the core of the ongoing investigation.
The Biloxi-based Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries is the petitioner in this trade case.