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US seafood exec counsels Vietnam’s exporters   2009-12-15 - VietNamNet/TBKTVN

Agriculture Ministry officials and leaders of the Vietnamese seafood industry have discussed how to control the quality of Vietnam’s seafood products to the US with John Connelly, President of the US National Fisheries Institute (NFI).


The EU remains is Vietnam’s biggest seafood export market; it takes 26 percent of Vietnam’s exports. Japan is second, taking 17.8 percent,  followed by the US which imports 16.9 percent. Tra and basa fish account for 31.8 percent of total seafood exports.  Why, then, asked Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Luong Le Phuong on December 14, does only the US impose anti-dumping duties?  Phuong proposed that Vietnamese and US businesses reach an understanding on modes of dealing with practical problems.


Connelly said that both Vietnam’s exporters and US consumers will be hurt if the US legally defines tra fish as a variety of ‘catfish’ and puts strict control over tra fish imports.  In a period of economic difficulties, there is pressure in the us to use tariff and non-tariff barriers to restrict the penetration of competitive products from other countries.


However, Connelly continued, four departments of the US government oppose the US Agriculture Department’s proposal to reclassify tra and basa as ‘catfish’. The US Department Commerce has vehemently opposed the proposal for fear that Vietnam may sue the US successfully before the World Trade Organisation (WTO).


At the working session, Connelly put several practical problems on the table.


First, the net weight of frozen seafood products. Vietnamese seafood exporters always ice their products to preserve them and when packaging, they add the weight of the ice into the weight of products.  The US Food and Drug Administration does not like this practice, calling it ‘deceptive.’


The second problem is that NFI believes that Vietnamese enterprises are transshipping catfish through Mexico into the US in order to avoid tax.


Third, the names of different fishes puzzle many American consumers.


And fourth, Connelly said, is the problematic use of a substance which causes the fish to retain water.


Nguyen Huu Dung, Deputy Chairman of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), said as long as the anti-dumping tariffs on frozen fillet products persist, only the Vietnamese companies which exceptionally enjoy low duties can export products to the US. There are ten such companies which have gained a good reputation with the US Department of Commerce; therefore, they will not jeapordize that by ignoring the regulations on net weight. Dung affirmed that VASEP is ready to cooperate with NFI and the US importers to settle the existing problems.

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