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SEAFARERS UNION CALLS FOR FAIR TUNA TARIFF

 SEAFARERS UNION CALLS FOR FAIR TUNA TARIFF
 CAMP SPRINGS, Md., April 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Unfair trade


practices and an irrational tariff structure for the canned tuna will shortly lead to the demise of the U.S. tuna industry, charged the Seafarers International Union yesterday in follow-up statements to its Feb. 4, 1992, testimony before the International Trade Commission in San Pedro, Calif.
 The union reiterated its call for tariff reform, demanding that the tariff rates on tuna canned in oil and tuna canned in water be equalized at a rate of 24 percent ad valorem -- equal to that of the European Community. Currently, most tuna packed in water is allowed in at a rate of only 6 percent, with the rest being charged at a rate of only 12.5 ad valorem. The Seafarers also replied to a host of direct questions raised by commissioners during the Feb. 4 hearings.
 The issue of canned tuna tariffs has been a contentious one since the early 1980s, when low priced imports from countries such as the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia flooded the U.S. market. Shifts in consumer's demand to water-packed tuna gave these nations the advantage of a loophole in U.S. trade laws which allows water-packed tuna to be imported at a rate up to five times lower than tuna packed in oil. The tariff rate on oil-packed tuna is 35 percent ad valorem. This disparity is the result of a World War II treaty with Iceland and remains an anomaly which the Seafarers urges be corrected immediately.
 The 1992 round of hearings is merely the latest in a long series of efforts by some in Congress, the industry and labor to seek a level playing field for American tuna canners. The first round came in 1984, when American canners charged their foreign competitors with "dumping" -- i.e. the selling of products below costs -- their tuna on the American market. Hearings were again held in 1986 and 1990. To date, this process has led to no concrete results.
 The Seafarers joined a call for action with their affiliates the United Industrial Workers, which represents workers at the last remaining U.S. tuna canning plant that utilizes whole tuna and which was born with the tuna industry in California, and the Fishermens Union of America, which represents fishermen on the ever declining U.S. fleet of the large purse seiner tuna fishing vessels.
 The issue has become quite pressing for the workers in California because Pan Pacific is currently demanding concessions and give-backs by its work force and the union if no action from the government is forthcoming. The threat of plant closings and transfer of production to Mexico or the Far East looms large. Precedent indicates this is likely. In 1980, Southern California was home to 12 canneries employing some 11,000 UIW members.
 The California industry, since World War II to the early 1980s, directly and indirectly employed hundreds of thousands of Californians, and generated billions of dollars in sales, income and taxes for the U.S. economy annually. Today only around 600 workers in canning and scores of others who operate small and large tuna vessels remain. The SIU and industry contend, however, that with a fair tariff policy, the industry will be reborn in California where many canning plants and fishing vessels currently sit idle.
 The SIU intends to take this issue to Congress. The House Ways and Means and Senate Budget Committees requested the ITC investigation, and have requested a report on its findings no later than July 31, 1992. This 1992 round was requested because Congress did not feel the 1990 report adequately addressed the issues they felt were necessary. These issues include the effect of so-called "Dolphin-safe" policies on the American industry, international fishery access for U.S. boats, the possible effects of tuna "loin" canning operations (which use tuna cooked and processed in foreign countries which are frozen and shipped elsewhere for canning), and more recent information on the state of the U.S. canning industry.
 The Seafarers International Union of North America is comprised of 18 autonomous unions representing over 85,000 workers on ocean- going, Great Lakes and inland waterways vessels, and workers in maritime related industries in the United States, Canada and the Virgin Islands.
 -0- 4/16/92
 /CONTACT: Shaun Gehan of the Seafarers International Union, 301-899-0675, ext. 305/ CO: Seafarers International Union ST: Maryland IN: MAR SU:


DC-TW -- DC020 -- 9479 04/16/92 16:23 EDT
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Date:Apr 16, 1992
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