Senator J. McCain comments on Vietnamese catfish

The following is comments from Senator John McCain, on Nov. 1, on insertion into Agriculture Appropriations bill an amendment that would ban all imports of Vietnamese catfish to the United States

"I am gravely troubled by the managers' insertion into this bill the latter provision that would effectively ban all imports of Vietnamese catfish to the United States. Vietnamese catfish constitute an important part of our catfish consumption in the United States. Americans like to eat them. Moreover, the guiding principle of the recently ratified, and historic, United States-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement was to open our markets to each other's products.

To my deep dismay, a midnight amendment inserted by the managers on behalf of several Senators with wealthy catfish growers in their states violates our solemn trade agreement with Vietnam. With a clever trick of Latin phraseology and without any mention of Vietnam, these southern Senators single-handedly undercut American trade policy in a troubling example of the very parochialism we have urged the Vietnamese Government to abandon by ratifying the bilateral trade agreement. Vietnamese catfish are no different than American catfish by nutritional and safety standards--but they are different in the eyes of the large, wealthy agribusinesses on whose behalf this provision was slipped into the agriculture appropriations bill. After preaching for years to the Vietnamese about the need to get government out of micromanaging the economy, we have sadly implicated ourselves in the very sin our trade policy ostensibly rejects.

Sweet potatoes, sugar, catfish, horse-breeders, and dozens of amendments passed without seeing the light of day.

There being no objection, the material ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

August 30, 2000.
Subject: Acceptable market names for Pangasius spp.

From: Scott Rippey, Office of Seafood
To: Whom it may concern
There have been several recent inquiries regarding the acceptable market names for a number of Pangasius spp., and particularly for Pangasius bocourti. The intent of this
memo is to provide a brief history on the subject as well as to list the currently acceptable market names for several of these species. This memo supercedes all previous FDA correspondence on Pangasius nomenclature.

In March 1999, the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) asked for guidance on an appropriate market name for P. bocourti. Since this imported fish was relatively new to interstate commerce, there was no existing acceptable market name (as would generally be described in the FDA Seafood List) for this species. From information provided by NFI (including material on this fish from Vietnamese sources), the FDA Office of Seafood accepted ``basa,'' ``bocourti,'' or ``bocourti fish'' as market names for this freshwater fish. This decision was expressed in a memo, dated March 11, 1999, from FDA to NFI.

More recently, there have been a number of requests made to FDA to allow the use of the term ``catfish'' for this species. The Pangasius species are members of the family Schilbidae. According to the American Fisheries Society World Fishes Important to North Americans. AFS Special Publication 21, American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland, p. 63.): ``The schilbids, here taken to include the Pangasiidae, are freshwater catfishes of Africa and southern Asia.'' As such, FDA's Office of Seafood will not object to the use of the name catfish, when used appropriately, to describe these species.

More recently there have been a number of requests made to FDA to allow the term ``catfish'' for these species. Species are members of the family--

Et cetera, saying there is no difference between the catfish that are raised in Vietnam and the catfish that the agribusinesses have. The agribusinesses, however, have advertised, ``Never trust a catfish with a foreign accent.''