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Tuesday, Nov 12, 2002

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Industry & Economy - Anti-dumping

US shrimp group defers dumping suit

Deeptha Rajkumar

KOCHI, Nov. 11

THE newly-formed US Shrimp Industry Association, comprising representatives from eight southern States in the US, has decided to put on hold its decision to file an anti-dumping suit against seven countries, including India, whose rock-bottom shrimp prices have hurt the US shrimp industry.

The primary aim of the association is to lobby congressional support to legislative efforts to limit shrimp exports to the US. Sources in the seafood industry said the issue would be revisited when the next meeting of the new association is convened on December 3, 2002 in Atlanta.

The move assumes added significance in the light of recent surge in Indian marine exports to the US. For the period April-July 2002 the share of US in India's exports have grown to 33.50 per cent. In value terms, exports to the US for this period stood at around Rs 621.44 crore as against 445.73 crore in the corresponding period last year.

Total seafood exports for the period stood at Rs 1855.32 crore as against Rs 1937.75 crore in the corresponding period last year.

Early October, India and several other Asian countries were targeted by US shrimpers for allegedly exporting of shrimp to the US at below fair market value.

A successful lawsuit would mean new tariffs on imported shrimp and could also be the first step towards import quotas.

Informed sources maintain that the hiring of a law firm to take up the issue has also been postponed as it did not receive sufficient support. Reportedly many participants objected to the hard sell approach adopted by the law firm that was pressing for the filing of the anti-dumping case.

Sources said the association had instead decided to take on a more cautious approach, seeking to first assemble a `war-chest' and postponing any commitment until sufficient funds have been raised.

``The delay in filing the petition is also due to the lack of conviction amongst US shrimp farmers that such a case would succeed. In the circumstances and given their existing financial difficulties, several of them have been reluctant to contribute (around $100 per head) to the `war chest' of $7 million that would be needed to pursue this case,'' an industry source said.

In the meantime, the issue has acquired political overtones with a draft legislation being introduced in the US house of representatives calling for a ban on all US Government assistance to seven countries including India simply because they have exported more than 20 million pounds of shrimp to the US in the first half of 2002. The other countries are China, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brazil and Ecuador.

It urges a ban on all US financial assistance to the seven countries through the EXIM Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation, as well as a proportionate reduction in the quantum of any US contribution to the IMF by the amount IMF spends on these seven countries. The draft legislation also requires that these measures continue until each of the seven countries restricts its shrimp exports to US to 3 million pounds per month for three consecutive months.

The draft Bill is of special concern since Indian shrimp exports to the US have been doing extremely well in recent years. In fact India is the second largest exporter of shrimps to the US in 2002, after Thailand.

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