It was a bit of good news in an uncertain year for Maine’s lobster industry.
On Friday, the White House and Maine congressional leaders announced the elimination of an 8% tariff on live and frozen lobster into the European Union, which they described as a move would level the playing field with Canadian lobster in that market.
President Donald Trump tweeted about the agreement on Tuesday, saying that “beautiful Maine lobsters will now move tariff-free to Europe,” naming Maine communities like Eastport, Cutler, Jonesport, Stonington, Friendship and Casco Bay as he said the deal will create jobs.
Later that night, the tariff's elimination was touted on another national stage when Jason Joyce, a lobsterman from Swan’s Island, took the stage at the Republican National Convention.
Joyce, who said he did not vote for Trump in 2016, explained that he believed the president had listened to fishermen and, though it will not affect Maine lobstermen, that a decision to open Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off New England’s coast to commercial fishing was a productive step.
“As long as Trump is president, fishing families like mine will have a voice,” said Joyce. “If Biden wins, he’ll be controlled by the environmental extremists who want to circumvent long standing rules and impose radical changes that hurt our coastal communities.”
Other Maine lobster businesses disagree, and think some of the president’s trade policies and sudden political decisions have been hurtful.
“I don’t think President Trump’s chaos is beneficial to anybody in any business,” said Stephanie Nadeau, the owner of The Lobster Company in Arundel, Maine, which distributes lobsters to places like Japan, Singapore and China.
“The Chinese tariff was fairly decimating,” said Nadeau, adding, “we lost half our sales from what it was prior to the tariff to what it is now.”
More recently, Nadeau has also had problems with the U.S. Postal Service for the first time, which she attribute to decisions made by USPS management that have come under scrutiny by Congress.
“I sent a check to my freight forwarder the last week in June but he received it the first week in August,” she explained.
She said she “had to reissue $100,000 worth of checks because the mail didn’t get there.”
As for the full impact of the European tariffs going away, that may not be known until economies more fully reopen after COVID-19 shutdowns.
“How do the economies recover and when do people start moving around a little more?” explained Sheila Adams, the vice president of sales and marketing at Maine Coast Lobster.
Adams believes that, overall, the EU tariff elimination is “good news” for her business, and that having a level playing field with Canada would be especially beneficial “closer to the holidays” when demand for lobster in Europe has traditionally gone up.
However, she said a close eye is being kept on recoveries in Southeast Asia and domestically, since those markets are “who consumes the largest volume.”