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The Catfish Wars Could Derail U.S.-Asia Trade

The country enlists nine allies in its fight with the U.S.
The Catfish Wars Could Derail U.S.-Asia Trade
Photograph by Jan Kornstaedt/Gallery Stock

Vietnam is finally getting some allies in its long war with the U.S. over catfish. For years it has been able to do little more than complain as farmers from Mississippi, Alabama, and other Southern states pressured lawmakers to tighten regulation of low-priced imported fish. Dissatisfied with the way the Food and Drug Administration was regulating foreign catfish, Congress in 2008 required the Department of Agriculture to set up a new office specifically for catfish imports.

Not much happened after that, though, so in a rare example of actual lawmaking this year, Congress set deadlines for the Agriculture Department to implement inspection rules for catfish from overseas. Among the leaders in the fight: Senator Thad Cochran, the Mississippi Republican who just survived a Tea Party primary challenge. Imports from Southeast Asia “have been found to contain dangerous chemicals and substances banned for use in the United States,” his office said in a statement, and it called on the Obama administration to take action against “underpriced frozen fish fillets from Vietnam.”