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December 28, 2020

EU tariff on lobster clears final hurdle, opening market for Maine exports

File photo / Laurie Schreiber An agreement to eliminate tariffs on live and frozen U.S. lobsters is expected to boost sales of Maine lobster to European markets.

The European Union has finalized an agreement to eliminate tariffs on live and frozen U.S. lobsters, retroactive to Aug. 1.

The deal should substantially boost sales of Maine lobster to European markets. The agreement is expected to last for five years, with the EU taking steps to make it permanent, according to a news release.

“This is a step in the right direction for U.S. lobster businesses,” said Annie Tselikis, executive director of the Maine Lobster Dealers Association.  

In years past, the European Union had been a top destination for American lobster, accounting for approximately 15% to 20% of annual lobster exports.  

But in 2017, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement was implemented between Canada and the European Union, reducing tariffs to zero on live Canadian lobsters and eliminating tariffs over a period of several years on frozen and processed Canadian lobsters.  

That agreement put American lobster exporters at a serious disadvantage because, unlike Canadians, American exporters were facing tariffs of between 8% and 30% to sell into the 27-nation union.

But in November, a trade committee of the EU Trade Committee voted overwhelmingly to advance what the dealers association called a “Lobster Mini Deal,” to eliminate tariffs on lobsters exported from the United States to Europe and apply Most Favored Nation status to the product.

Last week’s deal was solidified after President Donald Trump signed a proclamation.

The state's congressional delegation including U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, advocated for the agreement and raised the concerns of the lobster industry to the White House and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

“We are grateful for the attention and support from Sen. Collins and the entire Maine delegation as they have played a critical role as a facilitator between the industry and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative,” Tselikis said.

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