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June 18, 2003

Vietnam steamed over catfish tax

After U.S. levied 64% tax on catfish on dumping allegations, Vietnam says move is 'unjust.'

HANOI (Reuters) - A U.S. Commerce Department decision to levy anti-dumping duties of nearly 64 percent on Vietnam's catfish exports drew angry protests from Hanoi on Wednesday.

"Vietnamese people, especially fish farmers in Vietnam, are extremely disappointed by the U.S. Department of Commerce's trade protectionism-laden judgments," the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers said in a statement.

Vietnam is the largest foreign supplier of catfish to the U.S. market. Last year, it sold more than $55 million worth of frozen fish -- mostly catfish -- to the United States.

The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) said Tuesday it had found, "Vietnamese producers/exporters have made sales to U.S. customers at less than fair value."

The decision awaits approval by the International Trade Commission, due July 31, to affect Vietnam's exports of catfish fillets.

"The U.S. Department of Commerce's verdict is totally unjust and one-directional, neglecting all information from the Vietnam side of the story," said an official of the association.

The industry association, which groups around 120 fisheries businesses, also expressed concerns that "this unjust decision by DOC would lead to negative consequences for existing trade relations between the two countries."

"Vietnamese are peace-loving people who have endured and won many wars, but of course we prefer to live in peace," said Nguyen Dinh Huan, deputy director of Agifish, Vietnam's largest fish export firm.

Many Vietnamese catfish processors have branched into other foreign markets and switched from fillets to other processed products, such as breaded fillets, to avoid the tariff hikes.

Vietnam had previously suggested it would curb catfish exports to the United States, but the U.S. rejected the proposal.

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