Today, the Southern Shrimp Alliance submitted a letter to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) supporting the request made by Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana that shrimp and crawfish imports from China be included in the proposed remedial action to be taken under 19 U.S.C. 2411 (Section 301) that would impose an additional 25 percent tariff on certain Chinese imports. The Southern Shrimp Alliance’s letter additionally requested that all merchandise produced through Chinese aquaculture be subject to additional tariffs as part of any Section 301 action.
The USTR has concluded that the Government of China’s actions regarding technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation are unreasonable or discriminatory that burden or restrict U.S. commerce. In result, the federal agency is authorized to take action, including increasing tariffs on goods from China. The USTR had proposed an additional 25 percent tariff on certain Chinese imports. The list of products proposed to be subject to this additional tariff was determined after an inter-agency process where government officials identified goods that benefit from Chinese industrial policies, including Made in China 2025. The resulting list was culled to remove specific products that are likely to cause disruptions to the U.S. economy as well as tariff lines that are subject to legal and administrative restraints. The final list proposed by the USTR was established by first ranking the remaining products according to their likely impact on U.S. consumers – measured by whether there were alternative sources for the good outside of China – and then selecting products from the ranked list with the lowest consumer impact.
No seafood products were included in the USTR’s initially proposed list. However, the USTR has invited comments from the public as to what products should be ultimately subject to any Section 301 action taken.
The Southern Shrimp Alliance’s Letter
In its letter to the USTR, the Southern Shrimp Alliance noted that the U.S. Department of Commerce has already made formal final affirmative determinations that Chinese shrimp producers and exporters received countervailable subsidies, including support through the government of China’s industrial policies. Further, the Southern Shrimp Alliance observed that the widespread adoption of aquaculture throughout the world means that there are many other sources for seafood outside of China such that any tariffs placed on Chinese seafood would have a limited adverse impact on American consumers.
More importantly, the Southern Shrimp Alliance argued that including goods made through Chinese aquaculture in any Section 301 remedy would benefit American consumers by limiting the consumption of contaminated products. Recently published academic studies confirm that antibiotic use in Chinese aquaculture remains rampant and unregulated. In fact, China has the worst record of any country regarding the detection of veterinary drug residues in its seafood shipments to the United States. The entry line refusal data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration shows that over the sixteen-year time period spanning from 2002 through 2017, China accounted for over 42 percent of all seafood entry line refusals (1,310 out of 3,114) for reasons related to veterinary drug residues.
China’s share of such refusals has increased dramatically recently. In 2017, Chinese seafood accounted for 57 percent (82 of 143) of the total seafood entry lines refused by the FDA for reasons related to antibiotics. And through the first four months of this year, China has accounted for over 91 percent of such refusals (41 of 45).
The FDA’s reporting demonstrates that the use of antibiotics in Chinese aquaculture impacts a wide variety of different animal species. Yet despite consistent confirmation of the continued use of antibiotics in Chinese fish farming, the United States imported over $2.6 billion in seafood from China last year, of which nearly $1 billion were of seafood products produced through Chinese aquaculture.
Because the Chinese government has taken significant steps to cultivate its aquaculture industry and enhance its exports into the global marketplace, the government’s unwillingness to eradicate the indiscriminate and unprincipled use of antibiotics in aquaculture is indefensible. Including goods produced from Chinese aquaculture in any Section 301 remedy will therefore simultaneously both assist the USTR’s efforts to address China’s actions by countering that government’s support for an export industry and benefit U.S. consumers by reducing consumption of contaminated products in the U.S. market.
Read the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s letter to the USTR here: 5-11-18 Comments on Section 301