The European Union parliament has officially passed a mini trade deal with the U.S. that will see all tariffs on U.S. lobsters dropped for the next five years.
In a vote with 638 affirmative, 45 against, and 11 abstentions, the parliament confirmed that all U.S. lobster imports to the E.U. will no longer be subject to an 8 percent tariff, retroactive to 1 August. The tariffs will be removed for the next five years, and the E.U. will work to make the removal permanent.
The E.U. parliament’s trade committee voted in early November to move the issue forward, before the final vote on 26 November. It follows up on a deal struck in August between U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and European Union Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan, which removes the lobster tariffs in exchange for the U.S. halving duties on imports of certain glassware, ceramics, disposable lighters, and prepared meals.
“We’re thrilled that this has finally come to a resolution,” Maine Lobster Dealers Association (MLDA)Executive Director Annie Tselikis told SeafoodSource. “We understand that this is going to be published in mid-December, so that’s when it will go into force.”
The removal will apply retroactively to 1 August, allowing any company that has imported lobster since then to be reimbursed for the cost. Tselikis said the MLDA is going to work with the Brussels NOAA office to create a guidance document to help European customers reclaim those paid duties.
“The timing of this is great. To be able to fully take advantage of this in the lead-up to the Christmas market is a wonderful opportunity for the lobster exporters,” she said.
The new deal is especially helpful given the current difficulties stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
“Anything we can do to help promote lobster as effectively as possible in any market anywhere in the world is important for us right now,” Tselikis said.
The dropping of the tariff will put U.S. lobster on a level playing field with Canadian lobster in the E.U. for the first time in years. The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which took effect in 2017, allowed Canadian lobster to enter the bloc tariff free.
Earlier this year, the United States International Trade Commission launched an investigation into the impacts that trade agreement had on the U.S. lobster industry. Prior to the trade deal, the U.S. exported roughly USD 111 million (EUR 93 million) worth of lobster to the E.U. in 2017.
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