By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) submitted testimony to the International Trade Commission (ITC) supporting U.S. and Alabama shrimp industries effort to have tariffs placed on most imported shrimp because of alleged subsidies that foreign governments give to their shrimpers.
In 2012 the Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries (COGSI) filed a complaint to the ITC asking that countervailing duties be place on frozen warm-water shrimp imported from China, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. COGSI, which has many Alabama members is charging that those governments subsidize their shrimpers through direct government grants, cheap loans, debt forgiveness, and tax breaks. Sen. Sessions statement cited one example of foreign subsidies in the financing of what is expected to be the world’s largest shrimp processing and export platform by the Chinese government.
Senator Sessions testified, “First and foremost for me is the economic impact of this industry on the state of Alabama. According to Alabama Seafood, the Alabama seafood industry directly employs more than 8,000 people and has an economic impact of $336 million annually, including over $135 million in generated income. More broadly, 1.23 billion pounds of seafood is harvested each year from the Gulf of Mexico, 30 percent of the nation’s seafood overall. And, more than 70 percent of U.S. shrimp come from the Gulf of Mexico, underlining the economic and cultural importance to our region.”
Sen. Sessions continued, “I believe in free and fair trade. When foreign distortions of trade are not checked and corrected by legal processes such as this one, vital American middle class jobs are lost and our competitiveness is eroded. Many, including me, have documented the loss of millions of manufacturing job across the country in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, but manufacturing is not the only industry that suffers from unfair foreign competition. Our agricultural and fishery producers are also at risk. I am here to tell you today that all sectors matter in job creation. Efforts to promote fair trade in one sector inevitably benefits others.”
Sen. Sessions wrote, “In my state, shrimp is a way of life—from the fisherman to the docks, from the processor to the grocery store, restaurant, and family table; we all have a stake in this industry. This vital part of our local culture has been passed down for generations, and will continue to survive and ultimately thrive if you make an affirmative determination of injury at your final vote on this case on September 19, 2013.”
Sen. Sessions and COGSI argued that the ITC should impose the duties to level the playing field and protect the American shrimp industry.
China, India, Vietnam, Ecuador, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand exported over 984 million pounds of shrimp to the U.S. in 2012, worth over $3 billion.
If the ITC finds in favor of the American shrimp industry then final countervailing duties will be imposed this fall. The final ruling from the ITC is expected on September 19, 2013.
Sen. Sessions is a former Alabama Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for Alabama.