Key US House panel presses for IUU imports study with apparent focus on China

Date: February 4, 2020

Source: Undercurrent News

The US House of Representative’s Committee on Ways and Means, one of Congress’s most influential panels with authority over all taxation, tariffs and other revenue-raising measures, has asked the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to investigate the import of illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) seafood by the US.

And the large, 44-member panel seems particularly concerned about China.

In a two-page letter sent to ITC chairman David Johanson on Dec. 19, a copy of which was recently obtained by Undercurrent News, Ways and Means chairman Richard Neal of Massachusetts and trade subcommittee chairman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, both Democratic representatives, express concern about the “potential economic effects on US fishermen”.

They’ve called for a full report from ITC in no less than 12 months from the date of the letter, which would give the commission a deadline of Dec. 21, 2020, and have also scheduled a hearing at ITC’s headquarters on May 20. 

IUU fishing creates “unfair competition for US fishermen as imports account for 90% of US seafood consumption,” the two lawmakers wrote. “China plays an enormous role in the global production and trade of seafood and is the largest seafood trade partner of the United States. China also has been ranked as worst among 152 coastal countries based on the prevalence of IUU fishing and the country’s response to it.”

The report is expected to include a “description of major global producers of IUU products, including but not limited to China, and country practices related to IUU production and exports” as well as existing data and literature on the prevalence of IUU products in the US, an overview of current monitoring and enforcement practices, and a description of the US commercial fishing industry.

Chinese exports to the US way down in 2019

China remains a major source for the US of squid, tuna and red swimming crab, which are all wild caught, but also tilapia and shrimp, which are farmed products. It also sends the US numerous groundfish species, though many are wild caught in the US and imported by China for processing before being exported back to the US.

US seafood imports from China were significantly down in 2019 due to tariffs stemming from the trade war initiated by president Donald Trump.

Through November 2019, the US had imported some 390,791 metric tons of seafood from China worth $1.8 billion, according to the latest data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). By comparison, in all of 2017, prior to the trade war, the US imported 570,288 metric tons of seafood from China worth $2.7bn.

Regardless, China is on pace to remain the largest source of seafood in the US, which imported a total of 2.6 million metric tons worth $20.4bn in the first 11 months of the year, according to an Undercurrent review of NOAA data. However, Canada ($3.1bn), India ($2.3 bn), Chile ($2.1bn) and Indonesia ($1.9bn) all appear to have topped China in terms of the value of their seafood exports to the US in 2019, based on the first 11 months.

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