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By Mr. WYDEN:
S. 3518. A bill to make it a principal negotiating objective of the United States in trade negotiations to eliminate government fisheries subsidies, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Finance.
Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Fair Trade in Seafood Act.
Right now, our country is proud to be a world leader in the fishing and seafood processing industries. We rank among the world's top five exporters of seafood, and its largest importer. However, the U.S. seafood industry faces many challenges on the global stage from unfair competition. The Congress should be doing everything it can to make sure we retain our status as global leader. That is why I am introducing the Fair Trade in Seafood Act. This bill will establish this issue as a Principal Negotiating Objective of the United States in the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership and World Trade Organization talks.
Why is this bill important? According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, 85 percent of the world's fisheries are fully exploited, overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion--the highest percentage since the Food and Agricultural Organization began keeping records.
Many governments continue to provide significant subsidies that push their fleets to fish longer, more intensively, and farther away than otherwise would be possible. These destructive fisheries subsidies are estimated to be at least $16 billion annually, an amount equivalent to approximately 20 percent of the value of the world catch. The detrimental effects of these illegal subsidies are so significant that eliminating them is the single greatest action that can be taken to protect the world's oceans.
In contrast to these nefarious actors, the U.S. does not just talk about the importance of sustainable fishing practices and marine conservation. We are practicing what we preach. That means enforcing regulations and changing old, counterproductive, destructive habits. Our seafood industry is stronger because of it. At the same time, our market is open. In my view, this is the way every country ought to run its seafood industry. Our foreign trading partners, as I mentioned, often support practices that can cause long-term harm to marine habitat. In addition, our trading partners put up trade barriers that prevent sustainably caught U.S. seafood from reaching foreign consumers. These are practices that skew the playing field in a competitive marketplace. They skew the playing field against American fishers and give foreign competitors a huge advantage in an industry that depends on global trade. Forty percent of global fishery products are traded internationally, and seafood is more globally sourced than coffee, rice, and tea combined.
These harmful foreign trade barriers and practices that encourage overfishing are top priorities that need to be addressed. These foreign trade barriers harm our country's ability to create good-paying jobs. Preserving the wealth of the world's marine environment is of paramount importance. The U.S. seafood industry represents a major portion of our economy, employing over 1.5 million workers in the commercial sector alone. The commercial seafood industry has a significant presence in over 23 States and is an industry and, in fact, a way of life, a way of life that binds communities and stitches together the regions of our country. The seafood sector employs more people than the mining or oil industries.
It is also a foundation of our economy because, without fish, there are no jobs. Preserving the wealth of our oceans and rivers is an economic imperative as much as a moral one. That is why I urge my colleagues to cosponsor the Fair Trade in Seafood Act.
In short, this Act will codify an official trade negotiating objective of the United States with respect to government fisheries subsidies. More specifically, the negotiating objective will be to eliminate fisheries subsidies provided by governments that unfairly destroy markets to the detriment of the United States commercial fishing interests and that perpetuate unsustainable fishing practices. The bill aims to ensure that any commitments with respect to such subsidies are enforceable under appropriate trade laws. This negotiating objective will apply to any trade agreement that includes any negotiations relating to the elimination or reduction of government fisheries subsidies.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.
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