Donald Trump’s plan to slap a 40 percent tariff on the imported seafood that he says is costing the United States billions of dollars has been dubbed “a sham” by congressional Democrats and food activists.
The president’s proposal, dubbed the “Big Food Protection Act,” has been described as “bait and switch” by food and environmental advocates, who say it would effectively shut down the nation’s only thriving seafood industry, while leaving millions of Americans at risk.
Read more The legislation would have prevented the importation of nearly 200 million pounds of seafood that were harvested by American producers during the 2016 harvest, which has been blamed for a significant portion of the nations seafood shortages.
It would have required American producers to import seafood from foreign countries that have higher standards for animal welfare, and would have allowed those imported fish to be labeled as such.
But even before Trump’s proposed tariffs were introduced, the proposal was blocked in Congress by Democrats, who argued that it would harm American workers and undermine our nations reputation for humane farming practices.
The legislation was initially scheduled to be introduced in the House in late January, but was put on hold when Democrats voted against the bill in the Senate.
The House passed the bill earlier this month, and is now awaiting a final vote in the chamber.
Trump’s bill is an “ambitious but misguided” proposal, according to the New York Times.
Trump, the Times added, “says the fish is worth more than it is, but does not tell the truth.”
“It’s a bait and switch, which is a very bad idea,” said Richard Rosenfeld, a senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy group.
“We need to know how this bill will work, what the costs are, and then how it will work for the American people.”
The Trump administration argued that the proposed tariffs would be offset by imports from other countries that do not have similar regulations, and that the import quotas were necessary to protect American workers.
The Trump administration said it would be “unprecedented” for the United State to impose tariffs on imports from foreign nations, according the White House.
But the bill’s supporters are worried that if the tariffs are enacted, Americans will be unable to access the products that they want to buy, including seafood, from other nations.
A recent report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that Trump’s proposal could cost the United Sates fisheries industry billions of dollar, with a loss of nearly 80,000 jobs, an increase in import taxes of $2.4 billion and a total of $4.9 billion in lost revenues over the next decade.
“We’ve seen this before,” said Jennifer Cott, a legislative counsel with Food & Water Watch, which filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s proposal.
“In the 1980s, the Reagan administration was so eager to impose a 35 percent tariff that they actually did it and did it in one day.”
In the 1970s, during the Great Depression, the American seafood industry was hit hard by the embargo and by the import bans on Cuba and Venezuela.
According to a 2013 report from the Institute for Policy Studies, the United Kingdom imposed a 35-percent tariff on its seafood in the late 1980s after the embargo was lifted.
The import quotas also would have hurt small producers, including shrimp fishermen in the Pacific, who rely on local markets for their livelihoods.
“These quotas would have forced many of the world’s biggest shrimp producers to move offshore to lower-cost locations to escape the high tariffs and high import quotas that the Trump Administration has proposed,” the group said.
While Trump’s tariffs would have harmed the United states seafood industry and harmed small shrimp fishermen, they would also have benefited the American consumer, according a report by Food & Wine magazine.
According the report, “the tariffs would raise the cost of imported shrimp, while raising prices for American consumers by a factor of eight, from $1.29 per pound to $2 per pound.”
The seafood industry has been trying to convince Congress to pass the legislation, which would have provided $4 billion in aid for American producers, according Food & Drink.
But the White Senate has rejected the idea, saying that the $4 million is not enough to cover the estimated cost of imports.
“The White House and the Democrats want to give American consumers a bill that they can throw on the floor and say, ‘Here, here is what we want you to do,'” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut.
“And I don’t know if we have the votes for that.
But we’re trying to do what we can.”