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.
“The Maine lobster industry has been hard hit by the 25 percent retaliatory tariff that China imposed on the U.S. lobster industry in 2018. The Phase One trade agreement between the U.S. and China was a first step toward regaining Chinese market share,” said Senator Collins. “Your predecessor made real progress by securing a commitment from the Chinese to match or exceed their pre-tariff purchase levels. And at first, there really was progress under the agreement. But now that's not carried through into this year…and currently, the totals are nowhere near the promised purchase levels or the pre-tariff levels.”
Senator Collins asked USTR Tai, “What steps [are you] planning to take to ensure that China lives up to its promise and its purchase agreements that it made in the phase one agreement?”
USTR Tai 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 consider enforcement options. She went on to say, “Your raising it with me here today is one of the most powerful ways of showing how much of a priority these promises and China's ability to keep them are to us in managing our relationship with China.”
In 2018, China imposed a 25% 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.
Last month, Senator Collins led the Maine Delegation in writing to USTR Tai to highlight the importance of the lobster industry to Maine’s economy and the need to expand access to overseas markets.