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Senator Collins Urges USTR to Hold China Accountable on Lobster Purchases

China fell far short of its 2020 pledge to purchase U.S. goods—including lobster

Click HERE to watch Sen. Collins’ Q&A on China’s lobster purchase commitments. 


Washington, D.C. – At a Commerce Appropriations Subcommittee hearing today, U.S. Senator Susan Collins urged U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai to support Maine’s lobster industry by pushing China to uphold its promise to purchase more U.S. lobster.


In 2018, China imposed a 25 percent retaliatory tariff on U.S. lobster. Before the tariff, China was the second-largest importer of U.S. lobster, purchasing $128 million worth in 2017. During the first month under the new tariffs, however, live lobster exports to China declined by 64 percent. In January 2020, the U.S. and China signed the Phase One Trade Deal, which included a provision Senator Collins secured that boosted Maine’s lobster industry.


However, reports have shown that since the agreement was reached, China has failed to uphold its commitments to purchase more American lobster. In response, Senator Collins wrote to USTR Tai in February urging her to “take swift and appropriate action” to hold China accountable. She never received a response.


Senator Collins: “According to reports, China purchased only $289 billion worth of exports, nowhere near the $500 billion figure that was committed to. Now what's frustrating to me is I raised this exact issue with you when you appeared before this Subcommittee last April. Then in February of this year, I sent you a letter asking you to hold China accountable for the purchase commitments it made under the Phase One trade agreement. You did not even respond to my February letter, so I'm going to try for the third time to get answers from you. What actions are you taking to hold China accountable to fulfill its U.S. lobster purchase commitments? And more broadly, what specific actions are you taking to respond to China's dismal purchasing record, its overall performance, under the Phase One trade agreement?


USTR Tai apologized and pledged she will rectify her office’s lack of communication. She assured Senator Collins that it is a priority for her office to review China’s progress on fulfilling its agreement on the Phase One Trade Deal and to consider enforcement options. 


USTR Tai: “It has been very clear to us that China did not hit its targets in a number of areas, including with respect to lobsters in the Phase One commitments that they made to the United States government. We have spent several months, starting in October, having discussions with China around how they are going to fulfill those commitments now that we see that the numbers do not match up. I thought it was well worth having that conversation with China because I have always perceived and seen in my experience with China that China does care about international credibility. What we have seen, however, through these conversations, is that that has not been enough to motivate China to make good on these purchase commitments in particular. That is what is leading us to conclude that it is time to turn the page on the old playbook. We do need to enforce our rights with respect to China. And we do need to defend the interests of our entire economy, including our lobster people, lobster men and lobster women, our manufacturers, our workers, our ranchers, our producers. And I feel very strongly that we need to take a new and more comprehensive look at enforcing those rights and defending those interests with respect to China and that is what we are doing right now at USTR.




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