Why U.S. Agricultural Exports Will Be the Biggest Loser
American Farmers On the Hook
The equation is actually quite simple. The USDA catfish program is an illegal trade barrier that will prompt retaliation from countries like Vietnam and potentially China. But the U.S. exports a grand total of zero pounds of catfish annually, so the product that benefits from the illegal trade barrier would not be harmed at all by any retaliatory tariffs.
“No wonder this [program] has American exporters worried about retaliation… the Vietnamese could block imports of U.S. beef in response, and producers of soy products also have reason to be nervous.”
–Wall Street Journal Editorial 02.22.11
USDA Advocates for Exports
United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is a strong advocate for gaining market access and growing agriculture exports. He has stated, “American farmers are not afraid of competing. We do not want barriers. We want to open those up.” However, the USDA seafood program that his agency inherited from the previous Administration only has the potential to hurt U.S. Ag exports, not help.
Expanding to Other Species
The catfish lobby’s interest in expanding the program to seafood products like tilapia and shrimp is no secret. But such an escalation would not just further steal oversight away from FDA but likely invite aggressive trade retaliation that could cause significant problems for U.S. agriculture exports.
“There’s no reason for America to launch a trade war with Vietnam over fish.”
–Wall Street Journal Editorial 07.14.09
Beef, Pork, Soy, Cotton Will Pay a Price
Beef, pork, soy and cotton have nothing to do with this fight but it is their exports that will suffer the most.
The U.S. exports more than $19 billion worth of agricultural products to just Vietnam and China. Add the countries that send us shrimp and tilapia to that list and the number jumps to almost $61 billion.
“Because WTO litigation is intensely fact-specific…we are always reluctant to express definitive opinion about a possible case in a preliminary assessment. This case, however, stands on somewhat different ground… In our view, Vietnam would have a very strong WTO case against the United States.”
–James Bacchus, former chief judge on the highest international tribunal of world trade (WTO) and former Member of the Congress.