Why Does Our Government Hate Vietnam?
Dan Drezner notes the latest bout of protectionism:
Bush Shields Shrimp Industry (Washington Times)
The Bush administration yesterday said Chinese and Vietnamese shrimp are sold at unfairly low prices in the United States, siding with U.S. fishermen as they try to fend off overseas competition.
The decision reaffirms new trade barriers on the country’s most popular seafood, though the new duties meant to counter the competition are not as high as requested by the industry.
“Although U.S. shrimpers believe the [Commerce] Department understates the amount of dumping in certain instances, they reaffirm our contention that shrimp is dumped in the U.S. market,” said Eddie Gordon, president of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, which represents shrimpers from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
Vietnam and China have denied unfair competition.
“Our companies did not dump shrimp in the U.S. market,” said Chien Bach, spokesman at Vietnam’s embassy in Washington.
This case comes at the heels of “The Great Catfish War,” in which Commerce determined that Vietnamese producers were dumping “certain frozen fish fillets” at margins between 36.84% and 63.88%. But, prior to the determination, Congress had passed an amendment forbidding the Vietnamese from marketing their goods as “catfish”: they were forced to use the terms “basa” and “tra,” and only the American-born species, Ictaluridae, could be sold under that label. So, while one branch of government hammered the Vietnamese for their behavior in the catfish market, another branch declared that they weren’t part of it at all. Hypocrisy, anyone?
These trade practices would be fairly comical if they didn’t have such major economic implications. Vietnam’s catfish industry employs nearly half a million people in the southern Mekong Delta and sends a third of its exports here. Shrimp is even bigger: the US accounts for 45% of Vietnam’s shrimp export sales, and the industry employs 3.5 million people, most in poor rural areas.
This isn’t the way to lead the world toward liberalization.
Update (12/2 – James Joyner): Dan Drezner has some interesting words on this subject, too, in his post “Please, anything but cheap shrimp!!”