Illustrative image (Source: VNA)
Hanoi (VNA) – Vietnam highly appreciates the US Senate’s approval of a draft resolution that would repeal the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) catfish inspection programme, said Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Le Hai Binh on May 31.

The spokesman made the statement in response to reporters’ queries about Vietnam’s comment on the US Senate’s voting for Joint Draft Resolution 28, on May 25, to scrap the programme.

“Vietnam has repeatedly expressed its concern over the USDA’s catfish inspection programme which is costly and unnecessary, and would become a non-tariff trade barrier, violating regulations set by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the spirit of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement,” he said.

Binh described the US Senate’s approval as a sound step contributing to showing the US’s commitments to bilateral and multilateral trade mechanisms with Vietnam, he said.

It also conforms with new developments of the Vietnam-US comprehensive partnership which has been reflected through the recent visit to Vietnam by President Barack Obama, he added.

Vietnam appealed to the US Senate and authorities to soon make the next steps in completely lifting the programme, the spokesman said.

“We always exert great efforts to cooperate with countries, including the US, to ensure safety and the quality of Vietnamese catfish which has met international quality and safety standards,” he affirmed.

The US Senate’s vote took place on May 25, with bill supporters, including Republican Sen. John McCain, arguing that the USDA programme is wasteful, duplicative and unnecessary.

Supporters said the programme violated commitments to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and would result in a lawsuit that will cost US agricultural exporters.

They criticised its intention to protect US catfish producers by raising barriers for catfish imports from Vietnam and other nations.

The resolution still needs the House of Representatives’ approval and President Barack Obama’s signature to take effect.

Catfish is a popular fish in the US, with the market dominated by local producers mostly from southern states such as Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alabama. In recent years, they have been rivaled by cheaper Asian imports.

In 2008, to protect domestic production, the US Congress created the inspection programme, which includes anti-dumping duties targeting Vietnam’s tra and basa fish.

On December 2 2015, the USDA tightened catfish-related regulations. Observers said these regulations would affect both foreign and domestic producers and would cost the local industry millions of dollars.

On December 9 2015, two senators, John McCain and Kelly Ayotte, introduced a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to nullify the USDA's catfish inspection programme.-VNA