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U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) joined Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) in warning the Biden administration of the disastrous economic outlook for U.S. catfish farmers and processers if it adopts a preliminary decision to significantly reduce anti-dumping duties on imported catfish from Vietnam.
In a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, the senators urged a reversal of a preliminary decision that abandons decades of precedent on an anti-dumping duty order that has helped establish a level playing field for the U.S. farm-raised catfish industry. Arkansas ranks as the third-largest catfish producing state.
Should the preliminary decision become final, the non-market economy (NME) anti-dumping duty could be reduced from $2.39/kg to $0.14/kg for all producers controlled by the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV).
“In the instant Frozen Fish Fillets proceeding, the NME-wide rate has been $2.39/kg for many years, and it has been an effective deterrent,” the senators wrote. “It now defies logic that the Commerce Department is proposing to reduce the $2.39/kg rate to $0.14/kg, and assign this low rate to all Vietnamese producers/exporters that have, to date, failed to participate in the proceeding and/or failed to establish independence from the CPV.”
“Commerce’s approach here will incentivize hundreds of non-participating/CPV-controlled companies – i.e., those with likely higher anti-dumping duty rates – to flood the U.S. market with cheap, dumped imports without the discipline of an effective remedy. Under no circumstance should non-participating/CPV-controlled companies benefit from the same low rate assigned to participating companies that are independent from CPV control—without exception,” the senators wrote.
The lawmakers advocated retaining an existing anti-dumping duty order that treats exporters from NME countries like Vietnam based on the level of demonstrated independence from CPV control, with those most under the thrall of the CPV assessed the higher rate. A blanket assessment of the lower rate would, the senators argue, also set a troubling precedent for the approximately 250 NME proceedings involving communist governments before the Commerce Department.
“Commerce’s decision, if not reversed, will upend decades of agency precedent and weaken the trade relief granted to domestic industries. It will cause a flood of unfairly priced imports from NME countries like Vietnam, China, and Russia into the United States which will irreparably harm American industries,” the senators wrote.
“The U.S. farm-raised catfish industry remains a pillar industry in rural communities across our states. U.S. farm-raised catfish farmers and processors work day in and day out to provide a source of wholesome, unadulterated protein to the public, in addition to providing good-paying American jobs. This industry deserves a level playing field. We thus strongly urge Commerce to reverse its decision and rebalance the playing field for our constituents and workers across the United States,” the senators concluded.
In addition to Boozman, Cotton and Hyde-Smith, the letter was signed by Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), John Kennedy (R-LA), Tommy Tuberville (AL) and Katie Britt (R-AL).