A new trade deal between Canada and the European Union has New England fishermen reeling, worried that their live lobster exports won’t be able to compete.
The Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CETA) eliminates tariffs on live Canadian lobster, monkfish and scallops shipped to nations in the European Union.
The treaty could go into effect as soon as May.
“This impacts the entire lobster business,” said Annie Tselikis, executive director of the Maine Lobster Dealers Association. “It puts U.S. shippers at a real disadvantage.”
Currently, the European market makes up about 15 to 20 percent of all American lobster exports, according to Tselikis. It is a $200 million industry.
Tselikis said CETA saves European customers about one Euro per pound when buying Canadian lobster. “When you’re shipping millions of pounds, that adds up very fast,” she said.
While the U.S. can’t stop CETA from being enacted, the industry hopes lawmakers could try to negotiate a better trade deal for American lobster exports.
The industry is appealing to the congressional delegation in Maine and Massachusetts, as well as the Trump administration, asking for the same reduction in tariffs that the Canadian lobstermen received.
“They need to level the playing field for us,” said Steve Train, a lobsterman in Portland.
All four members of the Maine Congressional Delegation are pushing for a solution, and Governor LePage appealed to the Department of Commerce for help in a letter on March 28.
“With the CETA implementation fast approaching, I am respectfully requesting your assistance to avoid placing Maine at a serious economic trade disadvantage, which could potentially devastate our seafood industry and the many families who rely on it to earn a living,” Gov. LePage wrote to Secretary Wilbur Ross.