Collins, King, Pingree Push U.S. Trade Representative on EU Tariff Relief for Lobster Industry

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine) and Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) urged U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer to continue to prioritize a trade deal with the European Union (E.U.) that would reduce or eliminate E.U. tariffs on Maine lobster. Collins, King, and Pingree have repeatedly pressed the USTR to prioritize lobster in trade negotiations, as the U.S. industry has been adversely impacted by several international trade policies. In response to their advocacy, the USTR has identified lobster tariffs as a key priority for U.S. negotiators. In a recent letter to Amb. Lighthizer, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström opted against a U.S. request to reduce tariffs on the product as part of a limited trade deal, preferring to strike a wider agreement. In the letter, the members thank Lighthizer for his efforts and press him to continue his work to reach a deal that opens new markets for Maine’s lobster industry.

 

“As we stressed to you previously, the current eight percent E.U. tariff on live American lobster puts the Maine lobster industry at a significant competitive disadvantage compared to its Canadian competitor, which enjoys tariff-free access to the E.U. market under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).” write Collins, King, and Pingree. “…Having all but lost the large and growing Chinese export market due to retaliatory Chinese tariffs on American lobster, Maine lobster producers and dealers must find new customers for our state’s most iconic product. European buyers would undoubtedly purchase more Maine lobster if, like Canadian lobster, our product entered the E.U. tariff-free.

 

“We urge you to continue to strive for the elimination of the E.U. tariff on Maine lobster. Our fishermen and dealers deserve tariff-free access to the European market, and we look forward to continuing our work with you to achieve that goal.”

 

Collins, King, and Pingree have repeatedly stood with the lobster industry, which currently faces a number of serious threats including the ongoing trade war with China and potential federal regulations associated with the ongoing North Atlantic right whale take reduction effort. In a February letter, Collins, King, Pingree, and Congressman Jared Golden (D-Maine), asked the USTR to prioritize lobster in negotiations, noting that live lobster exports to China dropped by 64% in the first month after the retaliatory tariffs were imposed. The Maine delegation has also pressed for the Administration to offer funding to help the lobster industry access new markets, and to provide tariff relief to members of the lobster industry affected by the ongoing trade war with China – much as American farmers received government support to mitigate negative effects of the China trade war.

 

The full letter can be downloaded HERE or read below.

 

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Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:

 

We appreciate your continued advocacy for tariff relief on American lobster in your ongoing trade negotiations with the European Union, as indicated by recent your correspondence with European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström. Eliminating the E.U. tariff on American lobster would expand a valuable market for Maine lobster producers and dealers.

 

As we stressed to you previously, the current eight percent E.U. tariff on live American lobster puts the Maine lobster industry at a significant competitive disadvantage compared to its Canadian competitor, which enjoys tariff-free access to the E.U. market under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The Canadian industry is poised to reap even greater benefits when the E.U. tariffs on frozen and processed lobster are phased out under CETA, while tariffs ranging from 16 to 20 percent remain on frozen and processed American lobster. Having all but lost the large and growing Chinese export market due to retaliatory Chinese tariffs on American lobster, Maine lobster producers and dealers must find new customers for our state’s most iconic product. European buyers would undoubtedly purchase more Maine lobster if, like Canadian lobster, our product entered the E.U. tariff-free.

 

Commissioner Malmström indicated in her November 6 to you that the E.U. “could certainly address your concerns about E.U. tariffs on products such as lobster,” but that “given the WTO constraints on bilateral preferences, this should be as part of a wider agreement.” While we understand the need for a wider agreement on U.S-E.U. trade, we believe that securing a deal with the E.U. that immediately eliminates E.U. tariffs on Maine lobster should remain a priority.

 

We urge you to continue to strive for the elimination of the E.U. tariff on Maine lobster. Our fishermen and dealers deserve tariff-free access to the European market, and we look forward to continuing our work with you to achieve that goal.