EU agrees to cut taxes on US lobsters in modest trade pact

WASHINGTON (AP) — Maine lobsters should soon be returning to European pots under a modest trade agreement announced on Friday.

In a big win for Maine’s beleaguered lobster industry, the European Union (EU) agreed to drop its eight per cent tariff on United States (US) lobsters for the next five years and to work to make the move permanent.

For its part, the US agreed to cut in half tariffs on EU imports worth about USD160 million a year, including some prepared meals, crystal glassware and lighters. The tariff cuts are retroactive to August 1.

US lobster imports to the EU came to about USD111 million in 2017 before falling off in the face of rising tensions between the trading partners and an EU trade agreement with Canada that favoured Canadian lobster. Maine’s lobster industry had pleaded for relief.

“This will level the playing field between Canadian and Maine lobsters,” Republican Maine Senator Susan Collins said in Kennebunkport, Maine, where she had lunch with former President George W Bush and his wife, Laura, at their summer home.

King noted, though, that it might take a while for Maine lobster producers to redevelop relations with European customers who have been buying from Canada.

Overall US lobster exports dropped 19 per cent last year to USD561 billion from 2018. They are down another 43 per cent this year as the coronavirus pandemic has paralysed global trade.

The pact announced on Friday covers a fraction of US-EU trade, which came to more than USD1.3 trillion last year.

The limited deal is part of ongoing trade negotiations that were announced in 2018.

Lobsters at a wholesale distributer in Arundel, Maine. PHOTO: AP