U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden issued a joint statement in late February in response to reports that China has decided to establish a one-year exclusion process for certain U.S. goods imported into China. Live lobster is included as one of the 696 U.S.-origin products eligible for a tariff exemption.
“We welcome the promising development for Maine’s lobster industry that China may exclude $300 million worth of U.S. seafood imports from tariffs,” said Senators Collins and King and Representatives Pingree and Golden.
“It is encouraging that China appears to be taking more steps to uphold the purchase agreements reached in the Phase One trade deal, and we will continue to monitor these developments to ensure China fulfills its obligation to buy American goods, including lobster, in amounts that exceed the level of purchases in 2017. We have strongly advocated for the hardworking Maine lobstermen and women who have been unfairly harmed by retaliatory tariffs. As always, we will continue to fight on their behalf, and on behalf of other Maine industries and small businesses that are affected by the ongoing trade war.”
The Maine delegation has consistently 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 November, Collins, King, and Pingree urged the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to pursue a trade deal with the European Union that would prioritize lobster; in a February letter, the delegation asked the Trade Representative 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 Trump 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.
In January, Senator Collins announced that lobster was specifically highlighted in the agricultural sector purchase agreement of the Phase One trade deal. The Maine delegation also sent a letter to the Trade Representative, emphasizing the need to hold China accountable on its financial commitment to purchase American lobster.