European Union lawmakers have voted in favor of a trade deal that would see the bloc’s tariffs on U.S. lobsters removed.
The approval came via a 40–2 vote by the E.U. parliament’s trade committee, and follows up on a deal struck in August between U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and European Union Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan. That deal would remove tariffs of 8 to 20 percent on imports of lobsters to the E.U., while the U.S. would half duties on imports of certain glassware, ceramics, disposable lighters, and prepared meals.
In total, the trade deal covers roughly USD 200 million (EUR 169 million) worth of goods. The U.S. exported roughly USD 111 million (EUR 94 million) worth of lobster to the E.U. in 2017. The new deal would apply retroactively to any tariffs paid since 1 August.
“The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) welcomes today’s announcement that lawmakers in the European Parliament’s trade committee have voted in favor of removing tariffs on U.S. lobster and encourage the full parliament to back the deal when they vote,” NFI President John Connelly said in a statement following the vote. “The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the entire seafood supply chain, including U.S. lobster, so this trade triumph could not come at a more pivotal time. It will directly help the men and women on the water, in the processing plants, and the folks who play a role in the distribution and logistics that get lobsters from our waters to dinner tables in the E.U.”
The news was welcomed by the U.S. lobster industry, who had fears that the deal was on shaky ground following comments from some members of the committee.
“There was a slightly tenuous moment with regard to this particular deal because of an ongoing trade concern around U.S.-E.U. relations around aluminum,” Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association Executive Director Annie Tselikis told SeafoodSource. “There have been some members of parliament that said about a month ago this deal should have been scrapped.”
With the vote, the industry is more confident that the trade deal will progress, Tselikis said.
“We seem to have gotten to some level of resolved,” Tselikis said. “The industry is definitely interested in getting this completed as soon as possible.”
The new trade deal would level the playing field between the U.S. and Canada. Canada has had a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the E.U., allowing Canadian lobster exports to benefit from tariff-free exports to the E.U. – a move that benefitted Canadian seafood companies.
That tariff arrangement lead the United States International Trade Commission to investigate the impacts of the trade deal, to determine its impacts on the lobster industry.
“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,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in a statement. “I will continue to work closely with Maine’s hardworking lobstermen and women, processors, and dealers to help ensure the needs of this vital fishery are addressed.”
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