Vietnam's seafood industry yesterday criticized an announcement by the US to uphold anti-dumping duties on imports of Vietnamese shrimp and called for the decision to be overturned.
The Vietnam Association of Sea-food Exporters and Producers (VASEP) stopped short of accusing the US of protectionism, but insisted that the dumping allegations were groundless.
"Once again, VASEP affirms that Vietnamese enterprises do not dump their shrimp on the US or other markets," the industry body said in a statement in response to Tuesday's final ruling by the US Department of Commerce.
At the same time the association, which is controlled by the Ministry of Fisheries, welcomed the department's decision to reduce the level of punitive tariffs on shrimp imports from those provisionally set in July.
"VASEP acknowledges the positive amendments by the Department of Commerce in this decision," it said.
Ruling that pond-raised shrimp from Vietnam were being sold in the US at "less than fair value," the department fixed anti-dumping duties in a range of 4.13 to 25.76 percent, down from July's upper 93 percent bracket.
It also slapped hefty duties ranging from 27.89 to 112.81 percent on shrimp imports from China. Washington is expected to announce similar punitive action against shrimp from Brazil, Ecuador, India and Thailand later this month.
Seafood products rank as Vietnam's fourth-biggest export earner after crude oil, textiles and foot-wear, and although the tariffs are still likely to hurt -- since the US is its largest market -- the outcome of the US anti-dumping investigation could have been worse.
"Vietnam should be very happy with the result it has. Those rates are very low especially for a non-market economy like Vietnam," said Matthew McConkey, an international trade attorney at Coudert Brothers in Beijing.
"These margins are not anything that will significantly inhibit Vietnam's shrimps exports to the US," he said.
One step remains before the punitive duties are confirmed.
The quasi-judicial US International Trade Commission will meet next month to decide whether the shrimp imports threaten the US shrimp industry and, if so, to issue a final anti-dumping order.
Tuesday's ruling follows last year's imposition of anti-dumping duties on imports of Vietnamese frozen catfish fillets, a move that infuriated Hanoi.
The shrimp investigation was initiated last December when American shrimpers, under the umbrella of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, an eight-state industry coalition, filed a petition calling for punitive tariffs.
The alliance claims shrimp imports from the six countries under investigation jumped 71 percent from 2000 to to 360 million kilos last year while import prices plummeted 42 percent.
Nearly 90 percent of shrimp consumed in the US is imported.
"The United States is the most open market for shrimp in the world but we cannot let Chinese and Vietnamese shrimpers violate the rules of free trade to get ahead of their competition," alliance president Eddie Gordon said on Tuesday.
VASEP, however, insisted that the price competitiveness of Vietnamese shrimp was because of favorable natural conditions and low labor costs.