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Viet Nam Expresses Concern Over New US Catfish Inspection Rules

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VIET NAM - Foreign Ministry Spokesman Le Hai Binh expressed disappointment about the US Department of Agriculture's final rule on inspecting fish under the Siluriformes order, including Viet Nam's tra and basa fish.

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Binh spoke to reporters on Monday about Viet Nam's stand on the rule.

He said tra and basa fish were among Viet Nam's major earners in the American market, reports VNS.

Arguing that the new rule was unnecessary, he said Vietnamese firms followed market mechanisms, food hygiene and safety regulations when it came to exporting tra and basa fish, which were widely popular in the United States.

Besides Viet Nam, American Congress leaders, agencies and organisations also voiced their opposition to the programme. Other ASEAN member states were also concerned that it would impact their exports, he said.

Binh said the decision would become a non-tariff barrier, seriously affecting Viet Nam's exports, the lives of Vietnamese farmers, as well as the interests of American consumers.

He said Viet Nam would continue to work with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and closely follow the implementation of the programme to protect the countries' legitimate interests.

The final rule, released by the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on November 25, will be applied on both locally raised and imported Siluriformes fish.

The rule has been formulated to implement provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill. The rule will become effective in March 2016, 90 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

"The agency will conduct extensive outreach to domestic industry and international partners so that they fully understand FSIS' requirements, prior to its full implementation," USDA Deputy Under-Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza said in the release.

From March 2016, an 18-month transitional implementation period for both domestic and international producers will begin, and all Siluriformes fish, including catfish, will be under the regulatory jurisdiction of FSIS and not the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Before the final rule comes into effect, countries exporting products to the United States that wish to continue doing so must provide a list of exporters, as well as written documentation of their regulatory authority and compliance with existing FDA import requirements.

According to the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), Viet Nam will earn an estimated turnover of US$950 million from tra exports in the second half of this year. With this, the country is expected to make $1.7 billion this year, four per cent lower than last year.

VASEP said tra exports to the United States fell in the recent time because businesses had to pay a high anti-dumping tax of nearly $1 per kg, causing difficulties for Vietnamese exporters and American importers.

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