Newspaper article International New York Times

American Catfish Program Could Hinder Trade Pact ; 10 Asia-Pacific Nations Say Inspection Policy Violates International Law

Newspaper article International New York Times

American Catfish Program Could Hinder Trade Pact ; 10 Asia-Pacific Nations Say Inspection Policy Violates International Law

Article excerpt

Ten Asian and Pacific nations have complained that the Agriculture Department's inspection program violates international law.

Ten Asian and Pacific nations have told the Office of the United States Trade Representative that the Agriculture Department's catfish inspection program violates international law, and their objections could hamper Obama administration efforts to reach a major Pacific trade agreement by the end of next year.

They say that the inspection program is a trade barrier erected under the guise of a food safety measure and that it violates the United States' obligations under World Trade Organization agreements. Among the countries protesting are Vietnam and Malaysia, which are taking part in talks for the trade agreement -- known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- and have the ability to derail or hold up those negotiations.

The complaints were outlined in a letter last month signed by diplomats from the 10 countries. The letter did not threaten retaliation, but it stressed that the American catfish program stood in the way of the trade talks.

Vietnam, a major catfish producer, has long complained about the program, but it has never before won international support for its fight. Several of the countries whose representatives signed the letter -- including the Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia -- do not have catfish industries to protect and are not involved in the trans-Pacific trade talks.

But the letter expressed the concern that the inspection program could lead the Agriculture Department to expand its ability to regulate all seafood exports to the United States, catfish or not.

"Many of these countries are looking to see what happens to Vietnam on the catfish issues, and what precedence it might set for other trade deals in the region," said Jeffrey J. Schott, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington and the co-author of a book on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The United States and 11 countries on both sides of the Pacific -- as well as Australia, New Zealand and Brunei -- are still negotiating the trade pact, which has been repeatedly delayed over various disputes. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.