Senators promote U.S. catfish

Senators from catfish-producing states, including Louisiana, are asking the U.S. commerce secretary to uphold a decision reached last summer that determined U.S. catfish producers have been harmed by unfairly priced frozen fish fillets from Vietnam.

The Commerce Department continues to review an ongoing anti-zdumping action on fillet imports from Vietnam.

Louisiana Sens. David Vitter, Republican, and Mary Landrieu, Democrat, are among those signing the letter to Secretary Penny Pritzker. Others are Mississippi Republican Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker; and Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; John Boozman, R-Ark.; Mark Pryor, D-Ark.

“Since 2008, as a direct result of decisions that have been made by your department, imports of frozen fish filets from Vietnam more than tripled. Significant portions of U.S. production have already been destroyed by the very low prices and large volumes of unfairly traded Vietnamese product,” the letter said.

“Over the past several months, however, your department has issued some decisions which should help accomplish the goal of our antidumping laws — to encourage fair pricing of these Vietnamese imports.”

The catfish industry has experienced steep declines since 2008. U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics indicate the market share maintained by U.S. catfish producers dropped from 80 percent to 20 percent since an anti-dumping case against Vietnam was filed.

The letter said the department review of markets last year included an evaluation of Vietnamese dumping and “many Vietnamese exporters became subject to appropriate antidumping duty deposit rates.”

“We now have some hope for recovery in American catfish production,” the senators said.

The letter also encourages the Commerce Department to resist pressure from the government of Vietnam regarding the anti-dumping duties applied to its products.

“While our trading relationship with Vietnam is important, the same can be said for our trading relationship with virtually every country whose products are the subjects of U.S. antidumping proceedings. We urge you to insist upon the full, fair and vigorous application of our trade laws, and to appreciate the critical importance to our industry and our states of ensuring fair trade in Vietnamese imports of frozen fish fillets.”