USITC investigating effects of CETA on US lobster industry

The United States International Trade Commission (USITC) has announced it is planning to investigate the impacts of a Canada-E.U. trade agreement on the U.S. lobster industry.

The investigation was kicked off by a letter from the United States Trade Representative requesting the USITC provide a complete overview of the U.S. and Canadian lobster industries, including the trends in exports between both countries and the U.K. and E.U. That letter was itself kicked off by an executive order from U.S. President Donald Trump, intended to boost the U.S. lobster industry.

The investigation will provide an overview on the lobster industries of the two countries, including “information on production and catch levels, employment, processing capacity, supply chains, prices, domestic consumption, and key factors that affect industry competitiveness,” the USITC announcement states. Using that information as a base, the investigation will examine export trends between the U.S. and Canada and Europe, in addition to other major destination markets.

Included among that trend examination will be a look at the tariff treatment the products of Canada and the U.S. have received over the last five years. Just recently, the E.U. dropped tariffs on U.S. lobster, which prior to that had impacted all U.S. exports of the product. It represents the first tariff reduction between the U.S. and the E.U. in two decades, and would remove an 8 percent tariff on live lobster and an up-to-20-percent tariff on processed lobster.

While U.S. lobster – the lion’s share of which is caught in the state of Maine – was facing tariffs, a Canada-E.U. trade agreement had allowed Canada to export lobster tariff-free. The USITC is putting together a quantitative analysis of whether Canada’s lack of tariffs had any impact on U.S. shipments of lobster.

“USITC general factfinding investigations, such as this one, cover matters related to tariffs or trade and are generally conducted at the request of the U.S. Trade Representative, the House Committee on Ways and Means, or the Senate Committee on Finance,” the USITC wrote. “The resulting reports convey the Commission's objective findings and independent analyses on the subjects investigated.”

The investigation is welcome news for Maine’s lobster industry.

“Any time that we have an examination of the issues that are preventing free and fair trade from occurring is helpful for the industry,” Maine Lobster Dealers Association Executive Director Annie Tselikis told SeafoodSource. “The fact that USITC is looking at the impact of CETA is great.”

The USITC is requesting input on the investigation from stakeholders, and is planning to hold a public hearing connected to the investigation on 1 October.

Tselikis said she has already been in discussions with both the USTR and the USITC, but that she encourages members of the industry to participate to provide more detailed information.

“I’m encouraging members of the Maine Lobster Dealers Association to participate in the process, because there is information the USITC wants that I can’t provide,” she said. “I think it is worthwhile for the industry to participate in this process.” 

Photo courtesy of crbellette/Shutterstock


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