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Updated: November 12, 2020

Trade deal advance could mean reopened European market for Maine lobster

A key European Union committee has overwhelmingly supported an agreement to eliminate a tariff that has been putting Maine lobster exporters at a competitive disadvantage for several years.

The European Parliament’s trade committee on Thursday voted 40-2 in support of an agreement to eliminate tariffs on live and frozen American lobster, a move that is expected to substantially boost sales of Maine lobster to European markets, according to a news release.

The deal now awaits a vote by the full European Parliament. 

“This is a step in the right direction for U.S. lobster businesses,” Annie Tselikis, executive director Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association, said in the release. “They have been anxiously awaiting additional details on this deal since it was announced Aug. 21.”

Several years ago, the European Union was a top destination for American lobster, accounting for approximately 15% to 20% of annual lobster exports.  

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. The agreement put American lobster exporters at a serious disadvantage because, unlike Canadians, the U.S. businesses were facing tariffs of between 8% and 30% to sell into the European Union.

The new agreement will reduce tariffs on live and frozen U.S. lobsters to zero, retroactive to Aug. 1. The agreement is expected to last five years, with the European Union taking steps to make it permanent.

“The overwhelming support this trade agreement has received is encouraging news for Maine’s lobster industry, which has experienced a number of challenges in recent years ranging from the pandemic to the trade war,” said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

“Once this significant victory is finalized, U.S. lobster will be placed on a level playing field with Canadian lobster, and this lucrative market will be reopened.”

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