Aquaculture for all

Viet Nam Battles for Share of US Market

Economics Politics +2 more

VIET NAM - Viet Nams tra and basa (catfish) exporters have been steadily increasing their sales in the American market, and now American catfish producers are putting up strong political pressure demanding protection.

Tra and basa that are farmed in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, seem to face many difficulties and meet many barriers when penetrating export markets, according to official reports from Viet Nam. Although the WTO limits the most blatant forms of protectionism, local producers in importing countries are still able to put up roadblocks.

Under a US Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA), which took effect in 2001, Viet Nam’s exporters are forbidden to market ca tra and ca basa as ‘catfish’ in the US, despite the two species being members of the same fish family and tasting very much like American catfish. Viet Nam has seen this as a blatant effort to prevent penetration of the US market.

Vietnamese producers then also had to spend a lot of money and effort to market the fish products under the new names and persuade US consumers that ‘tra’ and ‘basa’ from Viet Nam are high quality, delicious taste and competitive in price.

The US industry also filed an anti-dumping suit against the Vietnamese industry, accusing the exporters of selling fish products on the US market for less than their fair cost of production..

However, the Vietnamese industry has now been successful in overturning the charges and the antidumping tariffs have been reduced to zero.

However, the Vietnamese industry says it is now concerned that the Farm Bill requires strict regulation of catfish products, following on a year after a controversy over excessive antibiotics and chemicals found in catfish imports from China.

Now, the US Department of Agriculture has proposed to update its regulations to include Vietnam’s tra and basa in its list of ‘catfish’ subject to rigorous inspection procedures.

The Vietnamese industry says that rather than let the anti-dumping case of Vietnam’s tra and basa exports ‘die,’ the Congress has bowed to pressure from the American producers and extended the case for another five years. Thus the Department of Commerce will have to make another ‘anti-dumping’ determination. It seems unlikely, however, that Viet Nam will be found to be selling basa and tra below their cost of production, the industry says.

In addition, to meet the requirements of the new inspection law, the US and Viet Nam will have to agree to procedures for US Agriculture Department experts to inspect Vietnamese processing plants.

Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) statistics show that in the first quarter of 2009 alone, Viet Nam exported $22 million worth of tra and basa to the US, an increase of 93.4 per cent in comparison with the same period of 2008.

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