The U.S. International Trade Commission heard testimony Thursday, 1 October, on the effect the trade agreement between Canada and the European Union has had on America’s lobster industry.
The Canada-E.U. pact, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), has had a detrimental effect on U.S. lobstermen and exporters since it took effect three years ago, according to Robert DeHaan, the vice president for government affairs for the National Fisheries Institute. DeHaan said the deal meant U.S. exporters faced 8 percent tariffs on live lobsters and up to 20 percent on value-added products while their Canadian counterparts paid no levies on the same products, providing them with a significant competitive advantage.
That is expected to change as the E.U. and U.S. reached a deal on 21 August to remove the tariffs from lobster products. The five-year deal, retroactive to 1 August, awaits some final changes, but DeHaan said it is welcome news for lobstermen and businesses that have endured other hardships this year with the COVID-19 crisis.
Both DeHaan and U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in prepared remarks that the USITC also needs to be looking into other trade deals to help the lobster industry. Their top recommendation is a targeting of China for a deal, where again Canada has been able to overtake the U.S. because of friendlier tariff rates, while the Sino-U.S. trade war initiated by U.S. President Donald Trump has resulted in lobster and many other U.S. seafood products facing higher tariff rates than four years ago.
“It is vital that our government support the efforts of the U.S. lobster industry to access new consumers and markets overseas,” Collins said in her statement. “I will continue to advocate for a level playing field for Maine’s lobster industry.”
DeHaan also added that the U.S. Trade Representative should pursue a free-trade agreement with Great Britain that mirrors the E.U. pact and also include other seafood products, such as whitefish, salmon, and shellfish. However, he cautioned that British officials seem intent on maintaining some of the old E.U. policies.
“Here, nevertheless, is the perfect opportunity for the administration to secure fair and reciprocal trade for those exporters, in an agreement with a developed nation whose consumers need no introduction to premium American finfish and shellfish products,” DeHaan said.
In addition to Thursday’s hearing, the USITC is still taking written submissions through 16 October. Those documents must be filed through the commission’s electronic system.
Photo courtesy of Maine Lobster Marketing Council