Ambassador Lighthizer credited Senator Collins with continuing to keep the USTR focused on this issue
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Washington, D.C.—At an Appropriations Subcommittee hearing this morning, U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), a senior member of the committee, pressed the United States’ top trade negotiator to address China’s retaliatory tariffs targeting the lobster industry. She also expressed concern about the trade agreement between the European Union and Canada that puts Maine lobster at a significant disadvantage.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer credited Senator Collins for raising the issues affecting Maine’s lobster industry to his agency’s attention and indicated that there is positive news on the horizon.
“China is admittedly a very bad actor when it comes to trade, but we have to be sure the actions we take do not end up hurting our own domestic producers,” Senator Collins said. “When you combine what is happening with Canada with the retaliation by the Chinese, my lobster industry is saying to me, ‘How are we going to survive while the administration works out its long-term plan?’ And that is my question to you.”
Ambassador Lighthizer responded, “You are completely right that lobstermen from Maine are both targets of the Chinese but also have this unfortunate circumstance that the relationship between…Europe and Canada has also taken away one of their markets…I do think that there is hope on the European side in the not too distant future that we can rectify that… [B]ecause of you and some of your colleagues, that was very much on our radar screen.”
Over the past three years, exports of Maine lobsters to China have nearly tripled; however, Maine’s access to this important market was adversely affected earlier this month when China levied an additional 25 percent tariff on lobster in response to trade actions taken by the Trump Administration.
Compounding the problem facing Maine’s lobster industry is a new trade agreement between Canada and the European Union—the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement—that has eliminated tariffs on live lobster and will phase out tariffs on frozen and processed Canadian lobster imported by the European Union. Currently, Maine lobster exported to the EU faces tariffs of between 8 and 30 percent.
In June, Senator Collins was joined by the entire Maine Delegation in hosting a meeting between top USTR officials and members of the Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association to discuss the impact of federal trade policies on the state’s lobster industry.
Thousands of Mainers work in the lobster industry, both on the water and in processing and distribution. Lobster is Maine’s largest export and generates $1.5 billion in economic activity each year.