Vietnam hires foreign lawyer to help local shrimp exporters

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The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) has hired a foreign lawyer to help handle requests made by US shrimp producers that their government raise tariffs on shrimp imported from Vietnam.

The US Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries have justified their request, claiming the products have received financial support from the Vietnamese government.

Tran Van Linh, deputy chairman of the VASEP, said the lawyer was hired after the US International Trade Commission on February 7 said that Vietnamese shrimp exporters had caused losses to American firms by selling their products at a much lower price.

But he did not reveal any personal information about the foreign lawyer, news website thesaigontimes.vn reported on February 22.

As part of standard procedure, when the US Department of Commerce (DOC) and the US International Trade Commission (USITC) accepted the petition submitted by the Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries (COGSI), these two departments should have asked the Vietnamese shrimp firms for clarification, said Linh.

But the USITC jumped to the conclusion that Vietnamese shrimp exporters had caused American firms huge losses by selling products at lower prices. Therefore, the lawyer of VASEP will work with the DOC only, he said.

The DOC earlier this year launched an investigation to find out whether Vietnamese shrimp exporters are indeed being helped by the government after the COGSI brought Vietnamese shrimp exporters to court late last year.

According to the VASEP, most Vietnamese shrimp businesses had gathered data and related documents necessary to answer a questionnaire submitted to them by the DOC concerning their export volumes and values.

The DOC then selected two shrimp exporters: the Minh Phu Seafood Corp., based in the Mekong Delta province of Ca Mau, and the Nha Trang Seafood Corp. in the central coastal province of Khanh Hoa, according a Tuoi Tre report on February 22.

The two companies had been asked more specific questions related to the case and had also been inspected.

The date of announcing the result of the case has been moved to April instead of March 25 as it is originally set, the report said.

If either the USITC or the DOC comes to the conclusion that Vietnamese shrimp exporters have not been receiving financial support from their government, the investigation will be repealed, according to Vietnam's Ministry of Trade and Industry.

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US shrimp producers press for duties on Vietnamese products

Besides Vietnam, shrimps producers from India, Indonesia, Ecuador, China and Thailand, were also involved in the case.

Around 30 Vietnamese shrimp exporters are already paying US anti-dumping taxes, which range up to 26 percent of net profits.

The turnover from Vietnam's shrimp exports was US$2.25 billion last year, down 6.3 percent compared to 2011.

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