“Without this positive vote, the Louisiana crawfish industry would have been dead in the water,” said Bob Odom, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry. “This means that the sunset review process on the tariff issue is over and we have won.”

In renewing the anti-dumping order for five years, The U.S. International Trade Commission voted unanimously (4-0).

The genesis for the latest ruling was a 1996 petition (approved in 1997) filed by Odom and crawfish processors, alleging that Chinese crawfish was being dumped in American markets at half the cost of Louisiana crawfish.

Such relief was needed, said the industry, because from 1993 through 1996 Chinese dumping had caused the U.S. market for crawfish tail meat to plummet 80 percent. This, in turn, caused some 60 Louisiana crawfish processors to be closed or scaled back.

“The ITC made the right decision today,” said Congressman Chris John of Crowley in southwest Louisiana. “One of my first efforts as a new member of Congress in 1997 was to lobby the ITC to place tariffs on Chinese crawfish. That was Round One. Today’s victory in Round Two further justifies our fight and upholds the importance of this valuable south Louisiana industry.”

John said crawfish provides more than $100 million annually to the Louisiana economy. “It’s part of out rich heritage, and we’ll fight for its survival.”

Recently, the U.S. Customs Service has been focusing more on bonding requirements for the Chinese. This, too, has also made a positive impact, says Odom. “In the last year the agency has beefed up its surveillance and enforcement of the $50,000 bond requirement. “Now that new tail meat importing companies are posting the bond they’re much less likely to fudge or circumvent the tariff.”

Attempting to work around the U.S. tariffs has led Chinese importers to a variety of questionable methods. Among them: claiming third-party countries as original importers and using front companies.

The ITC vote coupled with the U.S. Custom Service’s narrowing focus on the importers should keep the heat on.

Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu says the unanimous vote is a victory for her state. “The ITC decision…reinforces the uniqueness of Louisiana’s crawfish industry. The appeal of crawfish is nationwide and people will forever associate it with Louisiana – and rightly so.”

The tariffs on Chinese imports will vary widely – from 7.53 percent to 223.01 percent. Reportedly, most imports will face duties around 200 percent.

e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com