Union Tribune

August 7, 2002 

S.D. tuna firms get victory in trade bill signed by Bush

By TOBY ECKERT 
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE 

WASHINGTON San Diego-based tuna companies won an
important concession in a trade bill signed yesterday by
President Bush.

The new law retains tariffs on canned tuna imports from several
South American nations, marking a victory for Chicken of the
Sea International and Bumble Bee Seafoods.

The two companies fought a move to lift the tariffs on imports of
the fish from Andean nations, primarily Ecuador. They argued
that eliminating the 11 percent tariff would flood the United
States with cheap tuna from the region, causing job losses in
California and in the tuna-producing U.S. territories of American
Samoa and Puerto Rico.

While the San Diego area is no longer a blue-collar hub of tuna
fishing or production, it remains an important management
center for the industry and its fishing fleet.

Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea faced opposition on the issue
from another tuna giant, StarKist, which imports tuna in foil
pouches from Ecuador and favo red lifting the tariff. As a
concession to StarKist, the legislation Bush signed eliminates
tariffs on most pouched tuna imports from the Andean nations.

Tuna in pouches accounts for about 6 percent of the U.S. tuna
market.

Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Escondido, helped craft the
deal.

"The congressman, along with the industry, is very pleased with
this compromise," said spokeswoman Harmony Allen.

Chicken of the Sea Senior Vice President Don George said, "We're
not totally thrilled (with the new law), but we're not
disappointed, either."

A representative for Bumble Bee could not be reached for
comment.

The tuna language was included in a relatively obscure section of
the trade legislation, which will give Bush a freer hand in
negotiating trade pacts without congressional interference. The
section renews the Andean Trade Preference Act, a 1991 law that
eliminated tariffs on a host of products made in Ecuador,
Colombia, Bolivia and Peru.

The act was designed to encourage economic alternatives to the
illicit drug trade in those nations.