May 10, 2012 at 16:34 PM EDT
Louisiana Congressmen Tackle Illegal Circumvention of Trade Laws, Help Commercial Fishermen

The Southern Shrimp Alliance commends the leadership of Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) in combating the illegal importation of shrimp through the introduction of H.R. 5708, the “Preventing Recurring Trade Evasion and Circumvention Act” or the “PROTECT Act.” By preventing circumvention of U.S. antidumping and countervailing duties, the bill would benefit thousands of small, family-owned shrimping businesses in the Gulf and South Atlantic regions as well as a vast array of industries throughout the country that face unfair competition from abroad.

U.S. importers and foreign exporters have implemented a wide variety of illegal schemes to circumvent U.S. trade laws, resulting in the nonpayment of hundreds of millions of dollars to the U.S. Treasury in antidumping duties on imported shrimp alone. The bill seeks to substantially strengthen the enforcement capabilities of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agencies to prevent the evasion of antidumping duties and create new investigative authority for other federal agencies to facilitate the prosecution of violators.

“All U.S. shrimpers get significantly less value for our shrimp at the dock when importers illegally avoid paying the duties applied to dumped shrimp imports. We are still competing against products that fail to reflect their full cost of production,” explained John Williams, the executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. “The scope of this legislation is very impressive and its enactment will help stop the illegal trade practices that harm every shrimper in Louisiana and throughout the Gulf and South Atlantic. We are deeply grateful to Rep. Boustany and Rep. Richmond for taking definitive action that gets to the heart of circumvention.”

Examples of Shrimp Duty Evasion

The U.S. treasury has lost billions of dollars in uncollected duties on unfairly traded imports because of a wide variety of circumvention schemes. It is ironic that much of this illegal activity originates in China, where the U.S. government borrows money to cover the US budget deficit.

The Southern Shrimp Alliance works hand in hand with a number of federal agencies to investigate the evasion of trade laws and has helped to uncover a number of illegal schemes that resulted in the avoidance of hundreds of millions of dollars in shrimp duty payments.

For example, CBP estimated that the misclassification of shrimp as a product excluded from the antidumping duty orders resulted in the evasion of $132 million in antidumping duties.

A separate investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and NOAA Law Enforcement concluded that over $42 million in shrimp that should have been subject to antidumping duties was falsely identified as a product of Cambodia, a country without a significant commercial shrimp exporting industry.

CBP also found that shrimp from China was illegally transshipped through Malaysia to avoid duties and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Import Alert on Chinese seafood imports. The Southern Shrimp Alliance estimates that transshipment through Malaysia resulted in the evasion of nearly $280 million in antidumping duties over a five-year period.

Finally, CBP found significant illegal transshipment of Chinese shrimp through Indonesia, with tens of millions of dollars of antidumping duties evaded through such schemes.

“With a discouraging economy and large unemployment, Rep. Boustany’s and Rep. Richmond’s legislation comes at a vital time for the shrimp industry and our nation,” continued Mr. Williams. “The Southern Shrimp Alliance strongly urges every Member of Congress representing the shrimp industry from North Carolina to Texas to lend their support to this crucial effort by cosponsoring the PROTECT Act. We really need your help.”

SSA is an alliance of the U.S. warmwater wild shrimp fishery from eight states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. For more information on the SSA, please visit www.shrimpalliance.com or follow @ShrimpAlliance on Twitter.

Contacts:

Southern Shrimp Alliance
Deborah Long, 804-360-0074
@ShrimpAlliance
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