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US Trade Agency To Decide Fate Of Shrimp Antidumping Case

January 5, 2005 10:18 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS (AP)--A federal trade agency will decide Thursday if an antidumping case against shrimp imports from six Asian and South American countries should move forward.

The yearlong case was brought by Southern shrimpers who claimed that imports were being dumped on the U.S. market at unfair prices. The suit targeted imports from Brazil, China, Ecuador, India, Thailand and Vietnam.

At every stage, federal regulators have sided with U.S. shrimpers and found that dumping occurred and that imports had injured, or threatened to injure, the domestic industry.

Thursday, the U.S. International Trade Commission will issue its final ruling in the case.

In a preliminary vote last February, the commission voted 6-0 that there were grounds for the antidumping suit, finding that imports had injured or threatened "material injury" to the domestic injury.

The ITC must uphold its preliminary ruling for the dumping case to move to its final stage - the imposition of final duty rates by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

While the ITC looks at the question of injury to a domestic industry, the Commerce Department investigates whether dumping has occurred and it sets duty rates.

If the ITC again rules in favor of American shrimp processors and fishermen, the Commerce Department is expected to issue final dumping rates by the end of January.

Duty rates for the six countries range between 2.3% and 112.8%.

Brazil faces duties between 9.6% and 67.8%; China between 27.8% and 112.8%; Ecuador between 2.3% and 4.4%; India between 5% and 13.4%; Thailand between 5.7% and 6.8%; and Vietnam between 4.1% and 25.7%.

Dumping occurs when a product is sold in the United States at a price below a producer's sales price at home or at a price lower than the cost of production.

There are a few disputes over duty rates for individual companies that still must be dealt with by the Commerce Department, according to Deborah Long, a spokeswoman for the Southern Shrimp Alliance, an eight-state group of Southern shrimp processors and fishermen that organized the antidumping petition.

At this point, she said, "rarely do they significantly change rates."

Shrimp importers and exporters have fought the dumping case from the outset, claiming that there was no evidence of dumping and that duties would do little to fix the underlying problems in the domestic industry.

The case pits American fishermen who still catch shrimp in boats and the booming overseas shrimp farms.

American fishermen have struggled with overcapitalization, rising fuel prices and overseas competition. But they argue that massive subsidies to shrimp farms and the blocking of shrimp imports by Japan and the European Union set up unfair conditions.

Besides the trade action, American shrimpers are embarking on a marketing campaign to brand their shrimp as "American wild caught" and better-tasting than farm-raised foreign shrimp.