Maine wants US help to prevent lobster trade gap with Canada

Maine wants US help to prevent lobster trade gap with Canada

PORTLAND, Maine — As a trade deal between the European Union and Canada nears completion, politicians in Maine want the federal government to find a way to prevent the U.S. from landing in a major trade disadvantage over a valuable, and tasty, resource — lobsters.

The Canada-European Union deal would get rid of tariffs on Canadian lobster exports to the 28-nation bloc. That would give Canada a huge advantage over the United States in sending some coveted seafood products overseas.

EU nations imported more than $150 million in lobster from America last year, and took more than $190 million Canadian (US$143 million) from Canada. The combination of a strong U.S. dollar and tariffs would make it hard to compete with Canada, American lobster exporters said.

In Maine, where most of America’s lobster catch comes to shore, Gov. Paul LePage and all four members of the congressional delegation are putting pressure on the federal government to intervene. LePage, a Republican, has called for a meeting with Trump administration officials on the issue.

“I’m very concerned that Canada’s agreement with the European Union could hurt the lobster industry here in Maine by placing us at a competitive disadvantage,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat. “It’s important that President Trump’s administration understands how critical this situation is in its own trade negotiations with the European Union.”

Members of the Maine delegation said it remains to be seen how the government could get involved to level the playing field. The U.S. Department of Commerce, which handles issues related to seafood trade, did not respond to a request for comment.

But one solution could be by brokering a deal similar to the Canada-European Union pact, which has EU approval and is nearing finalization in the Parliament of Canada.

The agreement means EU nations would gradually eliminate tariffs over four years, a European Commission spokesman said. The pact is part of the larger EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. The Canadian government has said tariffs for fish and seafood average 11 per cent, can be as high as 25 per cent, and the EU is the largest importer of seafood in the world.

The U.S. and EU have worked on a trade agreement that would eliminate tariff barriers, but the talks are on hold right now, the spokesman said.

The U.S.’s lack of an agreement shows the need to better negotiate with European trading partners, said Mike Tourkistas, chief executive officer of East Coast Seafood, of Topsfield, Massachusetts, which is a major exporter of lobsters to Europe.

“We should focus on getting on board, rather than trying to fight,” he said. “Up and down the New England coastline, the impact can be big.”

In Canada, members of the lobster industry said the best remedy is for the U.S. to forge its own deal with the EU. But in the meantime, they’re looking forward to a bump in business.

Canada’s agreement with Europe could potentially benefit the U.S. industry because a lot of its lobster catch gets sent to Canada for processing, said Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada.

“Our live industry is so intermingled with your live industry,” he said. “This isn’t to put out our American partners. It’s just that our government has made it a priority.”

Patrick Whittle, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Reducing the risk of wildfire in Kaleden

Kaleden community organizing forum to plan for future wildfires

Snowfall warning between Merritt and Hope

As much as 20 centimteres of the white stuff is expected along a stretch of the Coquhialla

Pen High Lakers make strong showing against KSS Owls

Penticton Lakers fought hard through to final set

Back-to-back wins for the Vees this weekend

Penticton Vees take down Capitals 10-1

Reel Reviews: Justice for a classic

We say, “Murder on the Orient Express is pretty, but maybe too familiar to be perfect.”

Drones used in search for clues about missing women

A volunteer search party was supported by professional drone operators

‘An officer and a gentleman’: Const. John Davidson is laid to rest

Thousands attend memorial service for slain Abbotsford Police officer

VIDEO: Coquihalla closed both directions near Merritt

Detours are available via Hwy. 8 and Hwy. 1

VIDEO: The Last Jedi is going to be the longest ‘Star Wars’ movie yet

Newest movie in the franchise will beat Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week.

PHOTOS: Procession and funeral for Const. John Davidson

Thousands attended celebration of life for Abbotsford police officer

B.C. Liberal leadership candidates debate different paths for party

Third debate held Sunday, Nov. 19 at Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre

LIVE: BC Liberals kick off leadership debate in Nanaimo

Candidates’ forum is at noon at Vancouver Island Conference Centre

WATCH: Thousands gathering in Abbotsford for Const. John Davidson funeral procession

Celebration of life to follow at Abbotsford Centre at 1 p.m.

Most Read