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CITAC Shrimp Task Force

Statement by Erik Autor
Vice President of the National Retail Federation
and a Member of the Board of Directors of CITAC

April 1, 2004

I am Erik Autor, Vice President of the National Retail Federation and a Member of the Board of Directors of the Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition (CITAC). I want to welcome everyone on behalf of CITAC and our co-hosts, the American Seafood Distributors Association (ASDA).

I'd like to introduce the people standing with me today:

"  Wally Stevens is President of the American Seafood Distributors Association (ASDA) and Chairman of the Shrimp Task Force.

"  Laura Baughman is President of the Trade Partnership and CITAC's Economist.

"  Steven Grover is Vice President , Health and Safety Regulatory Affairs, National Restaurant Association .

"  Russ Mentzer, President and Chief Executive Officer of King & Prince Seafood Corporation.

"  Tim Bridgewater, Spokesperson for the Utah Artemia Association.

I'd also like to introduce Warren Connelly from Akin Gump who is ASDA's lawyer.

CITAC was founded in 2001 to give consuming industries and their employees a voice in U.S. trade policy. CITAC seeks to ensure open access to global markets for raw materials and finished products that enhance the international competitiveness of U.S. firms.

Many of you may know us from our work to defeat the Section 201 steel tariffs in 2002. CITAC was a leading opponent of these tariffs, and changed the terms of this major trade policy debate by organizing steel consumers into a political force. CITAC's efforts helped convince President Bush to terminate the steel tariffs early, in December 2003.

The steel tariffs are but one example of how relatively small segments of our economy can manipulate trade policy for the benefit of a few but at the expense of millions of Americans employed by consuming industries.

Three months ago, a group of U.S. shrimpers filed anti-dumping petitions at the International Trade Commission and the Commerce Department targeting shrimp imports from six countries. CITAC has watched the domestic shrimp industry launch a public relations and lobbying campaign that echoes the same tired refrain that was used by the steel industry: imports are to blame for all our problems and we need the U.S. government to tax consuming industries and their customers to save us from oblivion.

Imports account for almost 90 percent of all shrimp consumed in this country and the countries targeted by the petition account for 72 percent of these imports. U.S. shrimpers cannot catch any more shrimp than they currently are catching in the ocean. In short, if the petitioners win, it will be disaster for a huge sector of the U.S. economy and could adversely impact thousands of American jobs. In addition, consumers will feel the impact directly because of supply disruptions and price hikes. This attempt at economic isolation could have major economic implications for consuming industries and the American families they serve.

Today we are here to announce that CITAC will join with ASDA to fight this petition.

CITAC and ASDA have brought together concerned grocers, restaurants, processors, distributors, business councils and other consuming groups to form a Shrimp Task Force to ensure that the U.S. Government considers all the facts in the case fairly and objectively, with a full understanding of the ramifications of any decision.

CITAC will forcefully combat the PR campaign being conducted by the petitioners. We will educate policymakers, the media and the public on the potential devastating ramification of this baseless trade case.

Our goal is simple: To defeat this petition with the facts. We believe that the shrimp case provides a case study of what is wrong with the way U.S. dumping laws are applied and once the facts emerge, the ITC and Commerce Department will decide against imposing duties on imported shrimp.

Today you will hear from other U.S. industry groups who would pay the price for this protectionism. Let me first introduce the Chairman of the Shrimp Task Force, ASDA President Wally Stevens.

(…continued later)

Wally mentioned the Byrd Amendment. One reason we think cases like this are so appealing to domestic producers is the lure of a government handout. CITAC has been working for years for the repeal of the Byrd Amendment that directs dumping duties to the petitioners. The shrimp case is a prime example of what is wrong with this law. As stated so eloquently by Sebastian Mallaby in the Washington Post earlier this week: The Byrd Amendment “unites the ethic of ambulance-chasing lawyers with dumb trade protectionism.”

If successful, the shrimp trade case could provide the petitioners with a hefty financial windfall. Using conservative estimates of dumping margins, those eligible to receive the financial windfalls from the so-called Byrd Amendment in the shrimp case could receive $180 million in annual payment or $829,000 per company each year in payouts of antidumping special interest taxes on food imports. We have included materials in the press kits circulated by the petitioners, the Southern Shrimp Alliance, to solicit support for the antidumping petitions promoting Byrd monies as the primary motivation for joining the petition.

This kickback will come right out of the pockets of American consumers through what is basically a federal food tax that would be imposed on imported shrimp. In return, consuming industries jobs are adversely impacted and U.S. exports and the American jobs they create are threatened with retaliation.