The four members of Maine’s congressional delegation sent a letter this morning urging President Donald Trump to provide relief to members of the lobster industry affected by the ongoing trade war with China – much as American farmers received government support to mitigate negative economic consequences, according to a news release. 

The letter from Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden emphasizes the importance of the Chinese market to Maine’s lobster industry, and notes that the impact of the trade war is compounded by other economic and ecological challenges facing the iconic Maine industry. The lobster industry has an economic impact of about $1.5 billion per year in Maine and is a key economic engine for coastal communities, according to the release. 

The release notes that the lobster industry has not been included in the Administration’s $16 billion agricultural aid package, despite the product being among the first to be targeted by Chinese tariffs. 

“One of the first victims of retaliation imposed by China after the initial round of tariffs was lobster shipped from Maine,” wrote the delegation.“Prior to these tariffs, China had become the second largest importer of Maine lobster.  During 2017 – the last full year before the tariffs went into effect – Chinese customers purchased $128.5 million of lobster from Maine, and during the first half of 2018, U.S. lobster exports to China increased by 169 percent. American lobster dealers were encouraged by this positive trend and optimistic that China would continue to increase its American lobster imports. Instead, calamity struck when the Chinese retaliated against tariffs that your administration placed on their goods.” 

“We respectfully urge you to provide those segments of our lobster industry affected by these tariffs with relief similar to the aid that you are providing to our nation’s farmers,” the delegation continued. “Specifically, we request that you provide resources and aid intended to grow domestic demand for U.S. lobster and assist with the development of new export markets. Assistance to the lobster industry will help to lessen the blow of Chinese tariffs on a hallmark American industry that has done nothing to deserve the punishment that it is presently forced to bear.” 

This week’s letter marks the delegation’s latest efforts to advocate for the lobster industry in trade negotiations. In February, the Maine Delegation called on U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to make the lobster industry a priority in the ongoing trade negotiations with China. In June 2018, the delegation hosted a meeting between top U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) officials and members of the Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association (MLDA) to discuss the impact of federal trade policies on the state’s lobster industry. 

Additionally, the letter notes that the trade war is only one of the challenges facing this vital Maine industry. Specifically, the delegation references the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s proposed right whale take reduction efforts, which will have a significant impact on Maine lobstermen. In May, the delegation wrote a letter urging NOAA leadership to ensure that the science they are relying on is sound and comprehensive, the risk reduction standards are equitable across U.S. and Canadian jurisdictions, and the industry is included and consulted throughout the decision-making process. 

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