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Starkist supports fed proposal for bigger tax on Chinese-origin tuna, tuna products

StarKist president and chief executive officer, Andrew Choe
Meanwhile there is a trade/ tariff war between the US and China

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Pittsurgh-based StarKist Co., the largest private employer in American Samoa, has voiced its support of the federal government’s proposed assessment of additional tax on Chinese-origin tuna and tuna products.

StarKist’s support is outlined in a Sept. 6th letter from the company’s president and chief executive officer, Andrew Choe to Robert Lighthizer, the US Trade Representative (USTR), who sought public comments on its proposed supplement action in the investigation of the acts, policies, and practices of the Chinese government related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation.

USTR had issued notice in June this year, proposing a 25% duty on products from China with an annual trade value of about $34 billion. The initial action sought public comments on an additional 25% duty. On July 6th, China responded by imposing increased duties on goods from the US, according to the USTR.

The international media has reported the battle as the trade/tariff war between the US and China.

USTR then modified its initial action, adding another 10% duty on Chinese products and in July proposed a supplemental action to Section 301 of the US Trade Act by imposing another 10% duty and this time, on more than 6,000 Chinese products. A complete list of the affected products was made public and was the focus of StarKist, which is owned by South Korean-based Dongwon Industries.

“StarKist supports the government's proposed assessment of additional duties on Chinese-origin tuna and tuna products as an effective means to pressure the Chinese government to change its actions in this area while minimizing the harm to American consumers,” Choe wrote to Lighthizer, adding that “StarKist is an American success story.”

Choe pointed out that StarKist is a leading producer, distributor, and marketer of shelf-stable seafood products in the US, with its tuna products a mainstay of American homes, schools, restaurants, and military bases for more than 60 years.

“StarKist's contributions to the American economy are numerous and significant,” he said. “The company has steadfastly focused upon sustaining business operations on U.S. soil, despite the competitive disadvantages it currently faces in doing so.”

Additionally, StarKist is supported by 2,400 employees at the American Samoa cannery plant; 100 employees at its headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; 65 employees at the facility in Mira Loma, California; 28 service and sales team employees located across the U.S.; and seasonal operations in Silver Bay, Alaska.

Choe said the cannery operations in American Samoa - since 1963 - “are particularly notable.” For example, StarKist is the largest private-sector employer. “StarKist's business activities help to connect the small island community with the global economy, as more than 90% of the shipping containers that leave the Port of Pago Pago are related to the company's operations, and more than 70% of the volume of all American Samoa exports is StarKist product.”

StarKist’s operations in American Samoa support a range of associated companies as well, directly contributing to increased employment and economic activity in fishing, fueling, stevedoring (unloading fish), trucking, canning, shipping, and waste disposal.

“Given the scope of its U.S. operations, StarKist has a vital interest in the overall health and competitiveness of the American economy — even in those areas where it may not directly operate,” Choe continued.

To the extent that USTR has determined that certain actions of the Chinese government regulating technology transfers from U.S. companies “are unreasonable and burden U.S. commerce,” Choe said, StarKist fully supports the actions taken thus far under Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 19742 “to address those discriminatory practices”.

“Specifically, the company agrees with and supports increased tariffs on certain goods of Chinese origin,” he noted. “StarKist believes that special care must be taken to meet the Administration's policy goals while avoiding disproportionate harm to the U.S. economy and, especially, U.S. consumers.”

Choe added that it’s “unlikely that an assessment of additional duties on the Chinese origin tuna and tuna products... would cause disruption to the U.S. economy or negatively impact U.S. consumers, as there are plentiful sources of supply for these products from countries other than China.”

With the availability of alternate sources of supply, he said, StarKist does not believe  additional duties on these products will be passed on to U.S. consumers.

“Moreover, there are significant American sources of supply for tuna and tuna products, and thus including these ‘tariff subheadings’ in the final list of Chinese origin products subject to additional duty assessment would not only put pressure on the Chinese economy, but also help U.S. businesses and workers in the tuna industry,” he explained.

Choe suggested that it’s practicable for U.S. Customs to administer additional duties on Chinese-origin tuna and tuna products cited in the tariff subheadings.

According to the tariff subheadings list, there are 23 Chinese origin tuna and tuna products - referred to by StarKist -for the imposing of additional duty, as proposed by the USTR. Among the products are: albacore or long finned tunas, fresh or chilled, excluding fillets; yellowfin tunas, frozen, excluding fillets, other meat portions; bigeye tunas (Thunnas obesus), frozen, excluding fillets, other meat portions; and frozen tuna fillets.

Details of the USTR action and proposals can be viewed at <>