VietNamNet Bridge – The US Department of Commerce's final rule on the fish fillets anti-dumping issue is an unlawful and politically motivated decision to levy punitive duty rates on Vietnamese fish exporters in excess of 100 per cent.
The statement was made by the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) in its website on March 20.
VASEP said this radical departure from eight years of legal precedent relates to the use of a new surrogate country, Indonesia, to value the inputs of raw materials used in fish processing.
As Viet Nam is considered to be a "non-market economy" by the US Government, the US DOC uses third country prices to value Vietnamese inputs.
Indonesia has been rejected in prior reviews due to its poor data quality and lack of viable financial statements. DOC itself declared that Indonesia is not "economically comparable" to Viet Nam for the majority of months covered by the review period and then barred Viet Nam from citing this on the basis that it was "new information."
In the final results, DOC based its valuation of whole live fish prices - the primary input in the fish fillet case - on one Indonesian government pricing study which showed radical fluctuations in pricing and was not based on actual prices, but on calculated national averages from a handful of districts.
DOC engineered this punitive result after intense political lobbying on behalf of the US domestic industry, the Catfish Farmers of America (CFA). There was no attempt to hide the multiple high-level meetings and lobbying efforts made on behalf of the CFA directly to DOC, VASEP said.
The decision has drawn into question the fairness of the process and the alleged neutrality of the DOC decision-makers.
The Directorate of Fisheries Deputy Director General Pham Anh Tuan said that Viet Nam had voiced its strong opposition to the US Department of Commerce's decision to choose Indonesia as the sole reference country to calculate the anti-dumping rate on Viet Nam's tra fish, saying that it would bring the case to the US Court of International Trade.
"It is unfair for the department to replace Bangladesh with Indonesia as the reference country to calculate the anti-dumping tax levels on Viet Nam's imported tra fish as Viet Nam and Indonesia do not share similarities in comparable social-economic conditions, pricing and financial data, or have comparable subjects or fish species," Tuan said.
According to Tuan, the directorate's members and their lawyers will use these three differences as a legal foundation to file their responses to the lawsuit.
To avoid such a case, the official suggested that in the department's next administrative review, Viet Nam should take a hard line on the US' selection of the third reference country to value Vietnamese tra fish inputs on the basis of the most appropriate criteria.
He also called on domestic farmers, processors and exporters, especially those subject to the new decision, to stay calm to solve the issue, while drawing up marketing plans to move into emerging markets other than traditional channels like the US.
Vietnamese respondents have fully co-operated with DOC through multiple on-site verifications and the filing of full and complete responses and data over a period of nearly 18 months.
For the past eight years, DOC has consistently used Bangladesh to value Vietnamese fish inputs, continually rejecting the Philippines and Indonesia due to the poor quality of the pricing data, the lack of publicly available financial data, and the fact that these countries have no exports to other countries.
No material changes had been made to these facts in this review.
Bangladesh is farming Pangasius Hypophthalmus (catfish) in ponds similar to Viet Nam and producers in the two countries share reasonably comparable production costs and revenues, while Indonesia farms five different catfish species.
This has caused VASEP to claim there isn't even any specific data in Indonesia's output of Pangasius Hypophthalmus.
DOC continued to follow this well-reasoned policy even through the most recent new shipper review, published only a few weeks ago.
There was no recorded evidence in the 8th review that Indonesia had improved its position as a viable surrogate country or that the data was any more reliable.
We must therefore believe that domestic politics played a very obvious role in this decision, VASEP said.
The final duty rates for the reviewed companies - although not effective until an ultimate determination is made - average between US$0.19 per kilo and $1.34 per kilo, with all other separate rates companies receiving a $0.77 per kilo duty rate.
These exceed 100 per cent in additional duties, effectively barring the reviewed Vietnamese exporters from the US market and are punitive, not remedial, the organisation added.
VASEP, together with individual fish exporters and the relevant trade remedy bureaus of the Vietnamese Government, are studying all options in addressing this punitive result and its legality under US law and the WTO. Furthermore, there will be a comprehensive review of its impact on bilateral relations.
In 2012, Viet Nam exported tra fish to 142 countries and territories, earning $1.74 billion in revenue, according to VASEP.
Exports to the US brought home $358 million, over 20 per cent of the country's total export revenue, said the association.
Apart from the US, Vietnamese exporters are reaching out to new markets in Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States and Mediterranean countries.
Outrage over "unfair" duties
The US Department of Commerce (DOC)'s recent decision to impose anti-dumping duties on Viet Nam's tra fish is unfair and biased, said Luong Thanh Nghi, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman at the ministry's regular press conference in Ha Noi yesterday, March 21.
"We have time and again stated that Vietnamese businesses have not dumped tra fish - or other seafood products – in the US and request DOC not apply anti-dumping duties to any of Viet Nam's seafood products," he said.
"We believe that the issue of trade relations between the two countries needs to be considered in a fair, unbiased manner consistent with WTO rules," Nghi said in conclusion.
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