A set of retaliatory tariffs announced by China on Friday includes a plan to tax imports of American lobster, potentially jeopardizing one of the biggest markets for Maine’s signature seafood.

Chinese officials announced the planned lobster tariff along with hundreds of others amid the country’s escalating trade fight with the United States. China said it wants to place new duties on items such as farm products, autos and seafood starting July 6.

Maine’s four members of Congress expressed their concerns and wrote to President Trump last month about how the administration’s trade policies could hurt the state’s $1.5 billion-a-year lobster industry. On Friday, they issued a joint statement promising they will bring their concerns to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

“Maine’s lobster industry is an irreplaceable piece of our state’s economy that supports thousands of jobs and entire coastal communities,” Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, and Reps Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin said in the statement. “Just two weeks ago, the Maine delegation heard directly from our state’s lobster industry about the economic hardship a trade war with China would cause them. We will be outlining our concerns with the USTR about how these new tariffs will jeopardize this industry.”

China’s announcement could have major ramifications for the U.S. seafood industry and for the economy of Maine, which is home to most of the country’s lobster fishery. China’s interest in U.S. lobster has grown exponentially in recent years, and selling to China has become a major focus of the lobster industry.

“Hopefully cooler heads can prevail and we can get a solution,” said Matt Jacobson, executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative. “It’s a year-round customer in China. This isn’t good news at all.”


A Chinese government website Friday posted a list of seafood products that will be subject to the tariffs, and it included live, fresh and frozen lobster. The website said that the items would be taxed at 25 percent.

The announcement came in response to Trump’s increase in tariffs on Chinese imports in America. The Republican president announced a 25 percent tariff on up to $50 billion worth of Chinese goods on Friday.

The news raised alarms around the Maine lobster industry. Maine lobster was worth more than $430 million at the docks last year, and the industry is a critical piece of the state’s economy, history and heritage.

The U.S. isn’t the only country in the lobster trade. Canada also harvests lobsters and is a major trading partner with China.

“Anything that affects the supply chain is obviously not a great thing,” said Kristan Porter, president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. “The lobstermen obviously are concerned with trade and where they go.”

The value of China’s American lobster imports grew from $108.3 million in 2016 to $142.4 million last year.


The country barely imported any American lobster a decade ago.

China and the U.S. are major seafood trading partners beyond just lobster, and the new tariffs would apply to dozens of products that China imports from the U.S., including salmon, tuna and crab. The U.S. imported more than $2.7 billion in Chinese seafood last year, and the U.S. exported more than $1.3 billion to China.

“This is a blow to the hardworking men and women in the Maine lobster industry, and the broader U.S. seafood industry in general,” Annie Tselikis, executive director of the Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association, said in a statement. “If there was ever a time for the U.S. seafood industry, restaurants and retailers to come together to work towards a common goal of market access and supporting good American jobs and healthy sustainable American seafood, it is right now.”

Staff Writer Megan Doyle contributed to this report.

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