Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Catfish Blues

I'm currently reading False Economy by Alan Beattie, and so far it's a pretty good summary of economic history--and it's fairly accessible for those who aren't into economics or history. I haven't finished it yet, but this particular paragraph stood out for me:
A few years ago, American catfish farmers got cross when cheap Vietnamese catfish started entering the U.S. market...the farmers hired lawyers and lobbyists who persuaded lawmakers to force the Vietnamese to stop calling their catfish catfish....the Vietnamese relabeled their exports as basa or tra (meaning, in Vietnamese, catfish). American consumers, amusingly, appeared to regard the newly renamed catfish as a fancy imported premium product, and sales continued to thrive.

Undeterred, the U.S. catfish farmers changed their strategy. Their lawyers successfully secured import duties on Vietnamese catfish on the grounds that they were being "dumped," or sold at unfairly low prices, in the American catfish market. To do so under U.S. trade law, they needed to prove that Vietnamese catfish were a "like product" to American catfish. Which they did, having previously spend many thousands of dollars in fees to establish that Vietnamese catfish were not, in fact, catfish.
Say what you want about our system, but situations like these are not representative democracy's proudest moments. 

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