US shrimpers call for end to GSP

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
7 June 2007, at 1:00am

THAILAND - Thailand's ongoing war of words with the United States is set to take another twist as some of the largest seafood associations in the US have begun a lobby campaign in Washington to cut generalised system of preferences (GSP) privileges to Thailand.

"We want the US Congress to look into Thailand's business practices, particularly the labour abuses and disregard for protecting technology patents," Alton J. Fabre, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, one of the largest shrimp associations in the southern US, said in an email interview.

Mr Fabre, whose association wrote a letter last month to various congressmen and representatives of the trade board, said the US government should take a "hard look" at the way Thailand does its business before GSP privileges are renewed.

Thailand's GSP is set for renewal in early July this year. If changes are made, it could have an impact on various Thai export industries, including garments, gems and jewellery, and seafood and food processing.

"We sent our letter to members of the Louisiana Congressional Delegation and again we hope Congress will take a hard look at Thailand's practices," Mr Fabre wrote.

"Thai shrimp imports have been a serious problem for us and shrimp farmers across the US for years, and we need to bring attention to the issue and the country's business practices."

Thailand's shrimp exports to the US reached 193,764 metric tonnes in 2006 and has shown no signs of slowing. Thailand is the largest shrimp exporter to the US, comprising about 42% of Thailand's overall shrimp exports, which are expected to reach 336,045 metric tonnes in 2007.

Thailand is already undertaking action at the World Trade Organisation against the US for the latter's imposition of a 5.92% anti-dumping tariff against the 100% tariff imposed for Chinese products.

"In regards to the impact on the shrimp industry, we think it is not going to be significant," Somsak Paneet, president of the Thai Shrimp Association, said in a telephone interview.

"But this could lead to more issues that could harm other industries such as the garments and jewellery, as there is a lot of reliance on the GSP," he added.