Losing America's Livelihood: The U.S. Is Headed for Third World Status Unless We Change Government Policies That Are Driving U.S. Businesses Offshore, Destroying Jobs and Putting Entrepreneurs out of Business

By Jasper, William F. | The New American, January 26, 2004 | Go to article overview

Losing America's Livelihood: The U.S. Is Headed for Third World Status Unless We Change Government Policies That Are Driving U.S. Businesses Offshore, Destroying Jobs and Putting Entrepreneurs out of Business


Jasper, William F., The New American


John Williams has been shrimping since 1960. Together with his wife, Kathleen, he operates three shrimp boats out of Tarpon Springs, Florida, north of Tampa Bay. He has weathered recessions, squalls and hurricanes. But he is now facing a tidal wave that has already buried thousands of his fellow shrimp fishermen. It is a tidal wave of foreign shrimp--nearly one billion pounds of it--crashing onto the U.S. market from Red China, Vietnam, Thailand, India and more than a dozen other countries.

Last year Williams' outfit, Gulf Partners, Ltd., hauled in about one million pounds of shrimp. "We've produced about the same amount of product for the past several years," he told THE NEW AMERICAN, "but the price we get has dropped dramatically. Our gross revenue has dropped more than 50 percent. But our operational costs haven't gone down; in fact, they've gone up." According to Williams, who is secretary-treasurer of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, an eight-state coalition of shrimpers, the value of U.S.-harvested shrimp was cut in half, from $1.25 billion in 2000 to $560 million in 2002. Employment at southern shrimp plants dropped 40 percent.

The plight of America's shrimping industry is symptomatic of the dire consequences potentially awaiting every U.S. industry. It also starkly illustrates how suddenly an entire sector of our economy can be targeted and hollowed out, if not completely destroyed.

For generations, shrimping has provided a good livelihood for several hundred thousand Americans in Gulf Coast communities from Texas to Florida. Then, virtually overnight, foreign producers almost completely took over the U.S. market and now provide 88 percent of the shrimp consumed in the U.S. And it isn't because the foreign shrimp industry is more efficient or produces a better quality product. The real tsunami hit U.S. shrimpers in 2002, when the European Union, Japan and Canada banned shrimp from China, Thailand and Vietnam because of detected residues of chloramphenicol, a potent, broad-spectrum antibiotic suspected of causing aplastic anemia and other blood conditions. China, Thailand and Vietnam unloaded their shrimp cargoes on the U.S. market instead, even though federal regulations prohibit use of chloramphenicol in food-producing animals and animal feed products.

Shrimp fishermen like John Williams are fuming. "Another year like this and there won't be any domestic shrimp industry left to speak of," Williams told THE NEW AMERICAN, noting that he recently saw a repossessed $800,000 shrimp boat sell for $100,000 at a bank auction. "This is just plain wrong when a whole industry of hardworking, taxpaying American citizens can be put out of business like this by foreign competitors subsidized by their governments."

What Williams finds even more galling is that our government is subsidizing his foreign competitors, too! Yes, the same federal policymakers who have slapped domestic shrimp producers with onerous regulations, are not only helping his foreign shrimpers with incredible trade privileges, but actually aiding them with loans, grants and loan guarantees as well. Through assistance provided by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Export-Import Bank and other foreign aid programs, "we're not only giving them loans and subsidies, but advanced technology too," Williams notes with exasperation.

In 2002 and 2003, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) introduced the Shrimp Importation Financing Fairness Act, which aimed to stop some of these policies that are aiding the destruction of our domestic shrimping industry. The Paul bill would declare a moratorium on federal regulations that are making U.S. shrimping non-competitive and end funding of federal programs and international institutions that provide financial aid to countries that are dumping their subsidized shrimp on our market.

Rep. Paul's legislation names seven countries--Thailand, Vietnam, India, China, Ecuador, Indonesia, and Brazil--as the main dumping culprits. …

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