On Tuesday, the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (Select Committee) issued a bipartisan report with 150 policy recommendations to implement a strategy to fundamentally reset this country’s economic and technological competition with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Within its report, the Select Committee recommended that Congress should “[e]xpand the ‘rebuttable presumption’ in the [Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA)] to include certain imported PRC seafood products.” Additionally, the Select Committee also recommended that Congress “[e]xpand the list of seafood products from the PRC subject to the Seafood Import Monitoring Program [(SIMP)] to include all types of seafood products, to ensure the United States is not complicit in the PRC’s practice of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.”

The Select Committee’s recommendations regarding seafood follow the investigative reporting of The Outlaw Ocean Project documenting widespread forced labor practices within the Chinese long-distance fishing fleet, particularly with respect to vessels targeting squid. The Outlaw Ocean Project’s reporting also detailed how members of the Uyghur minority in China were transferred from Xinjiang province to work in seafood processing plants in Shandong province that prepared a wide variety of seafood products, including squid and shrimp, for export to the United States.

The Select Committee’s recommendations also follow NOAA Fisheries’ decision to abandon the agency’s proposal to expand SIMP to encompass additional seafood products, including squid and all forms of snapper. 

For the U.S. shrimp industry, American importers began setting the groundwork to take advantage of labor practices in China back in 2016 with ruling requests submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) asking for country-of-origin and marking determinations with respect to Argentinian Red shrimp shipped to China for processing before being imported into the United States. In two rulings requested on behalf of Eastern Fish Company (N302051 (Feb. 1, 2019) and N289554 (Sept. 21, 2017) and one ruling requested by Rod International (N282063 (Jan. 18, 2017), CBP found that Argentinian shrimp processed in China was not substantially transformed and “is a product of Argentina for [CBP] marking purposes.” The agency explained, “the packages of processed shrimp entering the United States must be marked to indicate that their contents are products of the original country, e.g., ‘Product of Argentina.’”

Under the UFLPA, any goods produced through the use of Uyghur labor are barred from importation into the United States. For certain merchandise, CBP applies a “rebuttable presumption” that the good was produced with Uyghur labor and importation into the country is only permitted if the importer can overcome that presumption on the basis of evidence establishing the absence of Uyghur labor. If the Select Committee’s recommendation regarding the UFLPA was adopted, U.S. importers would no longer be able to exploit the human rights violations occurring in Shandong province to obtain higher profit margins on their shrimp products.

“There is no reasonable justification for shipping shrimp across an ocean to be processed in a plant that has the same capabilities as shrimp processing plants around the world,” said John Williams, Executive Director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. “Creating supply chains to profit off of human suffering is reprehensible and the Southern Shrimp Alliance is grateful to the Select Committee for focusing on this issue and proposing meaningful, effective solutions.”

Read the press release of the Select Committee regarding the release of the Reset, Prevent, Build: A Strategy to Win America’s Economic Competition with the Chinese Communist Party here: https://selectcommitteeontheccp.house.gov/media/press-releases/select-committee-adopts-proposal-reset-economic-relationship-peoples-republic 

Review the text of the Select Committee’s report Reset, Prevent, Build: A Strategy to Win America’s Economic Competition with the Chinese Communist Party here: https://selectcommitteeontheccp.house.gov/sites/evo-subsites/selectcommitteeontheccp.house.gov/files/evo-media-document/reset-prevent-build-scc-report.pdf

Review U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s rulings regarding the country-of-origin and marking requirements for Argentinian shrimp processed in China: https://shrimpalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/CROSS-Rulings-on-Argentinian-Shrimp-Processed-in-China.pdf