|At a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) emphasized the harm caused by a flood of Indian shrimp imports to Louisiana shrimpers in his questions to the United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Robert Lighthizer.
Senator Cassidy explained that the imposition of strict phytosanitary controls on Indian shrimp imports by the European Union had diverted massive quantities of potentially harmful exports to the U.S. market. Senator Cassidy asked Ambassador Lighthizer to describe all relevant legal authority the Administration was considering to address Indian shrimp imports.
In response, Ambassador Lighthizer observed that the domestic industry could seek the imposition of countervailing duty orders to address the government of India’s significant subsidization of its shrimp industry. Ambassador Lighthizer stated: “Generally in a situation like this you’re better off bringing litigation.”
Senator Cassidy, in turn, appropriately noted that the problem of Indian shrimp imports went well beyond the Indian government’s subsidization of its industry and asked the Ambassador to consider organizing a more fulsome, comprehensive response from the Administration. Senator Cassidy outlined the weaknesses of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s response to date and asked the Ambassador what steps might be taken by the United States Trade Representative through a Section 301 proceeding or through the review of India’s eligibility for benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. Ambassador Lighthizer replied that this was an issue that he would be happy to raise in the context of discussions with the Indian government regarding India’s participation in the GSP program.
The concerns voiced by Senator Cassidy have ample support. Last year, the volume of India’s frozen, non-breaded warmwater shrimp imports into the U.S. market increased by another 16 percent over the previous year, with India now accounting for 39% of total shrimp import volume into this country. The continued remarkable growth of Indian shrimp imports in the U.S. market has occurred simultaneous to substantial actions taken by the European Union to prevent contaminated Indian shrimp from reaching European consumers. As the Southern Shrimp Alliance has previously documented, the European Union has placed limits on the shrimp farms, as well as shrimp processors, that can export shrimp to Europe and has further required that all shrimp sent to Europe be tested for banned antibiotics prior to shipment. Even with these controls in place, the European Union has mandated the testing of half of all shrimp shipments imported into the European Union and has recently called on member countries to expand on the scope of their testing.
With these actions, and enhanced scrutiny applied to Indian shrimp in other significant shrimp-importing markets such as Japan, India has targeted the U.S. market. The table below shows India’s shrimp exports to the United States and Vietnam (a country that, in turn, packages Indian shrimp for export to the United States) versus India’s shrimp exports to the rest of the world as reported by UN ComTrade for the four year period between 2014 and 2017 (2018 data are not yet available).
As the table indicates, exports to the United States and Vietnam have exploded, while India’s shrimp exports to all other markets have remained relatively stable. When these figures are broken out further, as shown in the next table, the Indian focus on the U.S. market becomes even more apparent. In 2014, the United States imported 26% more shrimp from India than the European Union. By 2017, the United States was importing 154% more shrimp from India than the European Union. Over that timeframe, the volume of India’s shrimp exports to the European Union had increased by 5%, while the volume of India’s shrimp exports to the United States had increased by an incredible 111%