Duties May Be Imposed by U.S. on $4.2 Billion Shrimp

The Commerce Department may impose duties on $4.2 billion a year in shrimp imported from China, Thailand and five other nations that U.S. producers say provide unfair subsidies.

The U.S. agreed to investigate imports of certain frozen warm-water shrimp from those nations as well as from Ecuador, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia, the agency said today in a statement.

Subsidized imports since 2009 have “suppressed and depressed domestic prices,” undercutting U.S. sales and destroying jobs, the Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries said in a Dec. 28 statement announcing its request for an investigation.

“Without relief, we fear that these unfair foreign subsidies could eventually drive our domestic industry to extinction,” the coalition, a group of about 30 domestic processors and seafood companies, said.

Shrimp from the seven countries subject to the investigation account for about 85 percent of all U.S. imports of the shellfish, according to the coalition.

Americans each year consume more than 1 billion pounds (454 million kilograms) of shrimp, the nation’s most popular seafood, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission. The product has also long been the subject of trade disputes. A commission ruling in 2011 allowed the extension of duties to prevent shrimp imports from Thailand, Brazil, China and India from being sold in the U.S. below production costs.

Frozen Shrimp

The Commerce Department’s investigation covers frozen shrimp that is packed in marinade, spices or sauce. It doesn’t include fresh, canned or breaded shrimp. The agency said it plans to announce its preliminary findings on the request for anti-subsidy duties around March 25 and final determinations around June 6. The International Trade Commission determines whether the domestic industry has been harmed by subsidies from other governments and is scheduled to make its decision by Feb. 11.

Thailand exports the most shrimp to the U.S., about $1.6 million worth in 2011, followed by Indonesia and Ecuador, according to the Commerce Department. The seven countries exported $4.2 billion of shrimp in 2011, according to the agency.

“We commend the Department of Commerce for initiating these seven investigations,” David Veal, Executive Director of the shimp coalition said in an e-mailed statement.

Two of the nations cited in the complaint, Vietnam and Malaysia, are part Pacific-region trade talks with the U.S.

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