U.S. Once Again Sets Bad Example with Shrimp Duties

While it calls for developing nations to open up their markets, the United States this month imposed duties of shrimp from Vietnam and China of 93 percent 112 percent respectively.

The duties will hit Vietnam especially hard as shrimp exports account for two-thirds of that country’s exports and 2 million people are employed in the industry.

The U.S. Commerce Department ruled that the two countries were exporting shrimp to the United States at below market prices. This is the standard dumping claim which the United States has repeatedly used to enact protectionist measures against competitors.

Rather, shrimpers in Vietnam and China tend to fish shrimp on large farms and, of course, labor costs in Vietnam and China are significantly lower than in the United States, allowing those two countries to sell shrimp cheaper. That’s not dumping, that’s comparative advantage. (Ironically, the U.S. shrimp industry complains about use of antibiotics, which is odd since that is an objection other countries frequently offer against U.S. beef and other products).

Even if the dumping claim were true, under the logic of the free trade principles that the United States pushes other countries to adopt, it shouldn’t matter. If China and Vietnam want to sell shrimp below market prices that would be rather foolish of them, but it would be a great boon to American consumers.


US slaps duties on Asian shrimps. The BBC, July 6, 2004.

Shrimp Duties May Shake The. Associated Press, July 5, 2004.

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