Yesterday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a notice of an affirmative determination as to evasion in its administrative investigation pursuant to the Enforce and Protect Act (EAPA) of MSeafood Corporation, the United States importer affiliate of the Vietnamese shrimp producer and exporter, Minh Phu Seafood. The agency’s determination concluded that, based on the record of the administrative proceeding, MSeafood “imported Indian-origin frozen shrimp that were transshipped and the country of origin claimed as Vietnam.” Because of this transshipment, antidumping duties that otherwise would have been owed on shrimp subject to the antidumping duty order on certain frozen warmwater shrimp from India were not paid to the U.S. government.
The EAPA investigation was begun last year following an allegation submitted to CBP on July 17, 2019 by the Ad Hoc Shrimp Trade Enforcement Committee (AHSTEC), a group composed of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, the Texas Shrimp Association, the North Carolina Fisheries Association, the Georgia Shrimp Association, the South Carolina Shrimp Association, and a broad array of industry members.
On January 14, 2020, CBP issued a public notice indicating that the agency had formally initiated an investigation of MSeafood Corporation based on AHSTEC’s allegation and that shrimp imported by MSeafood into the United States on or after September 18, 2018 would be subject to the EAPA investigation. CBP’s notice also explained that interim measures had been taken during the pendency of the investigation, such that any shrimp import entries made by MSeafood that remained unliquidated would be adjusted “to reflect that they are subject to the [antidumping duty] order on frozen shrimp from India” and to indicate that cash deposits will be owed. CBP also required that all shrimp imported by MSeafood from that point forward be subject to a cash deposit rate of 10.17%.
In its investigation, CBP confirmed that Minh Phu Seafood imported shrimp from India to use in its processing of frozen shrimp in its production facilities. Although Minh Phu Seafood and MSeafood claimed that all Indian shrimp used was for sales to markets other than the United States, CBP concluded that the evidence indicated that Indian shrimp was co-mingled with Vietnamese-origin shrimp and that Minh Phu’s internal production system did not permit reliable tracing of what happened to Indian shrimp from its purchase to its ultimate sale. CBP also noted that Minh Phu’s characterizations of its processes in response to agency inquiries had been internally inconsistent and stood in stark contrast to the descriptions provided by the company to the U.S. Department of Commerce in administrative proceedings related to the antidumping duty order on Vietnamese shrimp.
As the result of CBP’s final affirmative determination, the agency will continue to treat MSeafood Corporation’s shrimp import entries as subject to the antidumping duty order on Indian shrimp and will assess duties on these entries when instructed to do so by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Should it disagree with CBP’s holding, MSeafood is authorized under EAPA to seek an administrative review of the agency’s determination.
“The U.S. shrimp industry continues to be grateful to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for its robust enforcement of the shrimp antidumping duty orders,” said John Williams, the Executive Director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. “For the last several years, CBP has quickly cracked down on efforts by U.S. shrimp importers to skirt the law. CBP’s announcement, once again, demonstrates this Administration’s commitment to the enforcement of our trade laws.”
Read the public version of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s October 13, 2020 Notice of Determination as to Evasion in EAPA Investigation No. 7356 here: https://shrimpalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/TRLED-Determination-7356-PV-Signed.pdf