Vietnam files WTO complaint on US pangasius inspections


News   28/02/2018 - Nguyễn Trí Tín


Vietnam has filed a complaint before the dispute settlement body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) claiming that the US pangasius inspections regime amounts to unfair trade.

The three-page filing made Feb. 22 alleges that the US government's recent changes to its pangasius inspection regime are "inconsistent" with its obligations under WTO rules and will harm Vietnam.

The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), in September 2017, began wielding its new food safety authority over pangasius and other siluriformes, the genus that also includes domestic catfish. 

Previously the role was maintained by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is charged with overseeing the safety of all over seafood in the US, but legislation passed in 2008 and a subsequent political fight resulted in FSIS taking control. 

The change already has resulted in some trouble for the Vietnamese export. In December, FSIS blocked a container containing 39,000 lbs of frozen ”smoked swai fillets” from Vietnam. 

FSIS officials confirmed to Undercurrent News that they stopped the fish at the port of Los Angeles, California, because it was prepared with the use of tasteless smoke, an industry term for a mixture of chemicals and gasses that include carbon monoxide and are used to preserve a meat’s color, texture and taste, a process that has not been approved by the FDA as generally recognized as safe for use on pangasius, though it has been deemed safe for use on tuna, beef and pork. 

Additionally, FSIS started in September to insist on a new labeling requirement, consistent with those for meat, informing consumers that pangasius may contain up to 5% of added water.

The filing marks Vietnam's second WTO complaint against the US in recent months. In January, the country filed a WTO complaint about US anti-dumping duties on pangasius.

The request for consultations formally initiates a dispute in the WTO. Consultations give the parties an opportunity to discuss the matter and to find a satisfactory solution without proceeding further with litigation. After 60 days, if consultations have failed to resolve the dispute, the complainant may request adjudication by a panel.

Jason Smith
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Keywords: North America Americas Asia BRICs Companies Pangasius Whitefish Groundfish