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US fishermen seek relief in US-China trade dispute

From SeafoodSource - Steve Bittenbender - August 2, 2018

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has estimated that the country’s seafood industry may need more than USD 1 billion (EUR 860.9 million) in aid as a result of the tariffs being discussed by the adminstration of U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese officials. And that figure only stands to go up as administration officials announced Wednesday, 1 August, that they’re considering boosting the proposed tariffs on Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement Wednesday that the 15 percent increase would give the administration more flexibility in dealing with the world’s second largest economy. The list of goods that would be impacted by the 25 percent tariff includes a wide variety of seafood products. 

“The Trump administration continues to urge China to stop its unfair practices, open its market, and engage in true market competition,” he said in a statement. “We have been very clear about the specific changes China should undertake.  Regrettably, instead of changing its harmful behavior, China has illegally retaliated against U.S. workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses.” 

The revision to the tariff plan means the public comment period will now be extended through 5 September.

After the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it would offer USD 12 billion (EUR 10.3 billion) in aid to American farmers affected by the tariffs, officials from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that relief package would cover less than a third of the damage caused to U.S. businesses, including the seafood industry.

According to the chamber, an aid package for the commercial fishing industry would cost USD 811 million (EUR 698.3 million), and manufacturers of prepared meat and fish products would need USD 301 million (EUR 259.2 million) in funding to offset the impact of tariffs to their businesses. 

However, that doesn’t mean the business group is pushing for a USD 39 billion (EUR 33.6 billion) package.

“The best way to protect American industries from the damaging consequences of a trade war is to avoid entering into a trade war in the first place,” said Neil Bradley, an executive vice president and chief policy officer in a blog post on Monday, 30 July. 

While Chamber officials aren’t pushing for more aid packages, a group of congressional Democrats are. On 25 July, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Massachusetts) and five co-sponsors filed a bill that would allow commercial fisheries impacted by tariffs to seek disaster assistance funding.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), a co-sponsor, said in a statement that if the government is looking to help farmers, it should do the same for others hurt by the tariffs.

“In Maine, the lobster industry is reeling from a 25 percent retaliatory Chinese tariff that has essentially cut off our largest export market,” she said in a release. “While I continue to press the administration to restore stability to these and other trade markets, I’m proud to support this effort to provide fishermen relief in the short term. They don’t deserve to be victims of this self-imposed trade war.”


James Johnson