US Senate votes to end catfish inspection programme

Thursday, May 26, 2016 18:01

A tra catfish processing line. The US is the largest export market for Vietnamese tra fish products. — Photo
HA NOI (Biz Hub) – The US Senate has supported scrapping of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s catfish inspection programme because critics argued that the programme was wasteful and unnecessary.

The vote took place on May 25 and the Senate approved by 55-43 a resolution that would make the regulations void.

Supporters, including Senator John McCain, said the programme violated commitments to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and would result in a lawsuit that would cost the US its agricultural exports.

They criticised its intention to protect US catfish producers by raising barriers for catfish imports from Viet Nam and other nations.

The resolution still needs the House of Representatives' approval and President Barack Obama's signature to take effect.

Truong Dinh Hoe, general secretary of Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) told Vietnam Television on May 26 that it was good news for Viet Nam's tra fish industry that faced numerous difficulties in exporting tra fish to the US. It would also create a positive impact on tra catfish export activities in the future.

That action proved that the quality of Vietnamese tra fish products exported to the US was implemented as per the commitment of local firms' towards food hygiene and safety, he said.

Local tra fish processors and exporters should promote further management for their production, processing and export activities to reach strict standards on food quality at export markets, including the US, he said.

According to VASEP, in the first four months of this year, the US was the largest export market for Vietnamese tra fish products. Total export value of Vietnamese tra fish to the US had a year-on-year increase of 7.2 per cent to US$115.1 million.

Catfish is a popular fish in the US, with the market dominated by local producers mostly from southern states such as Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alabama. In recent years, they have been rivalled by cheaper Asian imports.

In 2008, to protect domestic production, the US Congress created the inspection programme, which includes anti-dumping duties targeting Viet Nam's tra and basa fish.

On December 2, 2015, the USDA tightened catfish-related regulations. Observers said these regulations would affect both foreign and domestic producers and would cost the local industry millions of dollars.

On December 9, 2015, two senators, John McCain and Kelly Ayotte, introduced a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to nullify the USDA's catfish inspection programme. – VNS

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