Jul 6, 3:53 PM EDTU.S. Proposes Tariffs on Shrimp Imports By LEIGH STROPEAssociated Press Writer WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush administration on Tuesday proposed tariffson shrimp imports from China and Vietnam, finding that companies therewere dumping frozen and canned warm-water shrimp products into theUnited States at artificially low prices.U.S. seafood distributors and retailers said Americans will face highershrimp prices at restaurants and in grocery stores if the duties, whichtake effect later this week, are kept.But shrimpers and processors disputed the claims, arguing that thosecompanies' huge profits could absorb any small increase without passingcosts on to consumers.Tuesday's preliminary decision by the Commerce Department was anotherslap at China on the issue of trade this election year. Last month, thedepartment proposed new tariffs on wooden bedroom furniture from Chinathat it said was being dumped into the United States. Vietnam was hitwith tariffs on its catfish last year, prompting complaints of U.S.protectionism.The proposed tariffs on Chinese exporters of frozen and cannedwarm-water shrimp and prawn range from about 8 percent to 113 percent.Vietnam exporters face duties ranging from about 12 percent to 93percent. Those numbers could change as the department continuesinvestigating."I think the message here is clear, that we'll enforce our trade laws,"said James Jochum, assistant commerce secretary for importadministration.U.S. shrimpers and processors, struggling from rock-bottom prices since2001, filed the antidumping petition in December, seeking duties onshrimp from China, Vietnam, Thailand, Brazil, Ecuador and India. Thosecountries account for about 75 percent of total U.S. imports of frozenand canned warm-water shrimp, Jochum said.China and Vietnam were considered separately because they are not freemarket-based economies. China exported 169 million pounds of shrimpworth $419 million to the United States in 2003, while Vietnam exportedalmost 125 million pounds worth about $588 million, the department said.A decision on the other countries is expected later this month."These rulings confirm what the industry is painfully aware of," saidEddie Gordon, president of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, a grouprepresenting warm-water wild shrimp fisheries in eight states: NorthCarolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi,Louisiana and Texas.The initial decision is "a critical step on the road to recovery fortens of thousands of fishermen, farmers and processors devastated by themassive volume of dumped Chinese and Vietnamese shrimp," Gordon said.The group claims the value of the U.S. harvest dropped by more than halfbetween 2000 and 2002, from $1.25 billion to $560 million, because ofdumping.But food distributors and retailers say shrimp consumption in the UnitedStates will drop and prices will rise as a result of the duties.The price of shrimp "is clearly going to rise and it's going to risedramatically if these taxes are left in place," said Wally Stevens,president and chief operating officer of seafood distributor SladeGorton Co., and chairman of an industry task force opposing the tariffs.The Commerce Department excluded breaded, fresh, dried and cold-watershrimp and prawns, and those found in prepared meals.The Bush administration is facing political pressure to show that it istaking action to deal with America's soaring trade deficits and the losssince mid-2000 of nearly 3 million U.S. manufacturing jobs. The UnitedStates recorded a $124 billion trade deficit with China last year - thelargest imbalance ever with a single country.The U.S. International Trade Commission unanimously ruled in Februarythat the imports were a factor in depressing shrimp prices, a necessaryfinding for an antidumping petition to be successful.The commission will make a final determination next January on whetherU.S. industry is being harmed by the imports. The Commerce Departmentthen will set final dumping penalties.