Case Study – Catfish Dispute

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“The Vietnamese catfish importers are enjoying the fruits of our work,” This was the main discontent of the domestic (US) catfish industry. Undoubtedly, the catfish farmers had put a lot of effort in improving the aquaculture technology to raise the catfish with better quality; thus, raised the demand of domestic market. At the same time, they had invested about US$50 million in the industry’s marketing. When catfish became the third favorite seafood of the American, leading to a total consumption of 275 million kilograms in 2000, it inevitably attracted people to get in the market.

However, based on the fact that the US Congress had approved the U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) with a reduction in tariff, it was the right for American importers to start the new business - importing Vietnamese catfish. The agreement was approved by the Congress due to the important reason: the trade benefits. To capture these benefits, they had to undertake the possible risks. Indeed, it was a fair game played by both parties.

From the article, it was clear that one of the sources of discontent from domestic farmers was the quality considerations difference between the American-grew and Vietnam-grew catfish. The quality of US catfish is justified by the inspection of 17 federal agencies and can meet the standard of the Catfish Institute of America, whereas the Vietnamese catfish only need to pass the Food and Drug Administration’s approval. This preferential practice should not sustain. The authority should consider standardize the quality requirement of both places’ catfish, for example, make it compulsory for Vietnamese catfish products to undergo the same inspections as the US catfish. Or at least, ask for proof of quality issued by Vietnamese government for all imported catfish.
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