Fighting for Fair Trade

The Southern Shrimp Alliance has prosecuted and defended the antidumping duties imposed to respond to unfair pricing, and provided information and analysis to multiple government agencies to respond to illegal evasion of the duties. Although the SSA remains committed to obtaining a level playing field upon which the domestic industry may compete in the U.S. marketplace, the SSA is also committed to ensuring that the benefits of trade relief are enjoyed by all segments of the domestic industry not just a fortunate few.

February 1, 2010 marks the five-year anniversary of the imposition of antidumping duties on shrimp from Brazil, China, Ecuador, India, and Thailand. Throughout those five years, including 2009, the SSA has been the principle proponent and defender of this trade relief. The shrimp industry’s experience with trade law over that time has been mixed.

On one hand, trade relief clearly arrested the seemingly endless growth of shrimp imports at declining prices. The drastic change in import trends that corresponded with the SSA’s efforts to obtain trade relief played a vital role in the continued operations of hundreds of small businesses in our industry. Further, the antidumping orders have resulted in over $186 million being made available to the domestic industry over the last four years. Less tangibly, the imposition of antidumping duties on imported shrimp proved that the U.S. shrimp industry can overcome tremendous obstacles when united in pursuit of a common goal to benefit the entire industry, rather than the individual interests of those within the industry.

On the other hand, the benefits of trade relief have not been apparent to many in the industry. Despite increased stability in the market place and the arrest of declining shrimp prices, the amount shrimpers receive for their catch is the lowest in memory. The $186 million in collected antidumping duties that has been distributed to the domestic industry has overwhelmingly benefited shrimp purchasers and not fishermen. Thus, despite the influx of substantial funds into the hands of purchasers of shrimp, what shrimpers receive for their catch has continued to deteriorate.

The fact that trade relief has benefited one segment of the domestic shrimp industry disproportionately does not negate the importance of obtaining a level playing field upon which the domestic industry can compete in the U.S. market. The antidumping orders have had an important and obvious positive effect in the marketplace. However, the inequitable distribution of benefits does mean that the SSA must carefully balance the utility of the trade relief with what is in the best interests of the entire domestic industry.