A key European Parliament committee has voted overwhelmingly to advance a mini trade deal that would eliminate import duties to Europe on Maine lobster products.

The deal, which was agreed to in principle in August, would zero out lobster import duties in exchange for the United States halving its tariffs on imported European crystal glassware, propellant powder and cigarette lighters.

The deal, if approved, would be retroactive to Aug. 1 and would place U.S. lobster on equal footing with that of Canada, which inked its own trade agreement in 2017 that eliminated tariffs for Canadian lobster.

The vote on Tuesday by the parliament’s trade committee was 40-2 in favor of accepting the trade deal. The measure now moves on to the full European Parliament and the European Committee for an up-or-down vote. The deal as designed lasts for five years, but the EU could take steps to make it permanent.

While the deal is not done yet – there are details still to be worked out, including how EU importers will recoup the tariffs they have paid since Aug. 1 – the overwhelming margin of the vote was cause for celebration, said Annie Tselikis, executive director of the Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association.

Tselikis said the deal was nearly scuttled in October when other, unrelated trade concerns between the EU and the U.S. Trade Representative’s office appeared to cast doubt on whether the United States would follow through.

“This was tenuous for a little while,” said Tselikis, who has heard anecdotally that Maine dealers are receiving more interest from EU importers.

Tselikis is already looking toward the Christmas season, and said she hopes the details are worked out before the holidays.

“We would love to see this resolved as soon as possible,” she said.

Maine lobster producers have been at a disadvantage since 2017, when Canada and the EU finalized a deal that zeroed out European tariffs on Canadian lobster.

The U.S. sold $104 million worth of lobster to Europe in 2017, accounting for about 20 percent of total U.S. lobster sales abroad, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s foreign trade division. Last year, unable to compete with tariff-free Canadian lobsters, U.S. lobster sales to Europe fell to less than half that, or about $51 million, data show.

“Once this significant victory is finalized, U.S. lobster will be placed on a level playing field with Canadian lobster, and this lucrative market will be reopened,” said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in a statement touting the deal. “I will continue to work closely with Maine’s hardworking lobstermen and women, processors, and dealers to help ensure the needs of this vital fishery are addressed.”

The Maine congressional delegation had been pressuring the Trump administration to make an EU trade deal that included lobster since 2018, when the United States’ trade war with China resulted in the Chinese imposing a 25 percent tariff on lobster imports.

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