On Tuesday, the Southern Shrimp Alliance submitted comments to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), requesting the continuation of an additional 25 percent duties on Chinese seafood. Originally imposed by President Trump in 2018 under “Section 301” trade authority, the additional tariffs on Chinese imports are being reviewed by the USTR to determine whether they should be removed or maintained.
In the first part of the legally-mandated review, the USTR invited parties to request the continuation of the Section 301 action. In response, the Southern Shrimp Alliance filed letters on June 30, 2022 and August 19, 2022 in support of additional duties on Chinese seafood. The USTR also received hundreds of requests from other American companies, trade associations, labor unions, and industry interests asking that the 25 percent tariff on Chinese goods be kept in place.
Following these requests, the USTR issued a questionnaire to the public requesting arguments both for and against the additional duties on Chinese goods, with responses due no later than January 17, 2023.
In its comments filed Tuesday, the Southern Shrimp Alliance explained that although the United States reduced its imports of Chinese seafood subject to the additional duties by 44 percent, from $2.8 billion in 2018 to $1.6 billion in 2021, U.S. seafood importers quickly switched to other sources of supply, increasing the value of seafood imported from the rest of the world by 36 percent from $19.0 billion in 2018 to $25.8 billion.
The swift changes in supply chains due to the tariffs has been particularly evident with frozen prepared or preserved shrimp, imported under subheading 1605.21.10 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States. The United States imported $240.9 million worth of these goods, which include breaded shrimp, from China in 2018. But in 2021, the value of these Chinese imports had fallen to $40.5 million. At the same time, imports of this shrimp from the rest of the world increased from $1.1 billion in 2018 to $1.7 billion in 2021. These trends continued last year, with official import data showing that through November of 2022, the value of these Chinese shrimp imports had fallen by another 29 percent, a decline of $11.2 million, compared to the same time period in 2021. On the other hand, the value of imports of this shrimp from the rest of the world climbed by another 18 percent, increasing by $281.8 million compared to 2021.
The Southern Shrimp Alliance argued that reducing dependence on China for the supply of food – particularly items like seafood that are readily available from other sources around the globe – should be a priority for the federal government. The organization also observed that moving away from Chinese seafood diminished health risks posed to American consumers by the continued, unmitigated use of banned antibiotics in Chinese aquaculture.
While the Southern Shrimp Alliance argued for the continuation of the additional duties, the National Restaurant Association, and seafood importers, including Aqua Star, Censea Products, and Eastern Fish made individual submissions to the USTR calling for the tariffs on Chinese seafood to be eliminated.
Further, a letter was filed with the USTR from thirteen seafood companies (Gorton’s, Captain D’s, Endeavor Seafood, FW Bryce, the Nordic Group, Maritime Products International, Slade Gorton’s, Channel Fish Processing, High Liner Foods, The Hadley Company, Arctic Fisheries, King & Prince Seafoods, and South Stream Seafoods) opposing any additional duties on imports of Alaska pollock, cod, haddock, salmon, flounder, sole, flatfish, and ocean perch from China. The Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association also asked for the removal of additional duties on imports of flatfish from China, while the Groundfish Forum asked for duties on imports of Chinese sole, flounder, and Alaska plaice to be eliminated.
The United Fishermen of Alaska also asked for the removal of duties on flatfish imported from China, but asked that the USTR increase the duties imposed on imports of Chinese tilapia to 30 percent and that action be taken against imports of Alaska pollock harvested by Russian vessels that are subsequently processed in China. These comments were echoed in a joint letter submitted by the At-Sea Processors Association and the Pacific Seafood Processors Association, which asked the USTR to expand the Section 301 duties to include imports of Alaska pollock from China and that the additional tariff on imports of Chinese tilapia be increased (or, at a minimum, maintained at current levels). At the same time, these two industry associations asked for the exemption of certain salmon and cod products imported from China from the Section 301 duties and the elimination of duties on imports of Alaska flatfish and rockfish products from China.
Beyond these groups, the National Fisheries Institute submitted comments opposing any tariffs on Chinese seafood, arguing that the additional duties harmed both U.S. seafood importers and exporters. The letter to the USTR from the National Fisheries Institute criticized the position taken by the Southern Shrimp Alliance:
“In a similar vein, another commenter cannot resist dragging in unrelated seafood topics that have no connection to the necessity review itself. Regrettably, the Southern Shrimp Alliance (‘SSA’) once more makes unfounded allegations regarding extraneous topics to argue in favor of perpetual Section 301 tariffs on commercial seafood. Though a serious topic, food safety has no place in this proceeding. As NFI has pointed out in prior, non-China Section 301 actions, making Section 301 remedy determinations on the basis of extraneous topics will pervert the entire Section 301 process and if successful will encourage others to attempt to use this and other Section 301 proceedings to achieve policy outcomes they have failed to achieve in the appropriate legal or regulatory fora. USTR should reject any such attempt.”
The Southern Shrimp Alliance’s comments to the USTR over the last year have exhaustively catalogued the abuse of banned antibiotics in Chinese aquaculture, as documented in numerous academic studies published since the imposition of the Section 301 duties. These studies, in turn, have been supported by the findings of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where, even with the large reduction in Chinese seafood exports to the United States since 2018, China’s share of overall seafood import entry line refusals for reasons related to the presence of veterinary drug residues has increased to over 47 percent.
Read the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s June 30, 2022 letter to the Office of the United States Trade Representative here: https://www.shrimpalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/SSA-Letter-to-USTR-re-Section-301-Duties-FINAL.pdf?x46704
Read the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s August 19, 2022 letter to the Office of the United States Trade Representative here: https://www.shrimpalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/SSA-Letter-to-USTR-re-Section-301-Duties-List-2-FINAL.pdf
Access comments submitted to the USTR here: https://comments.ustr.gov/s/docket?docketNumber=USTR-2022-0014