In a development that could add more barbs to the ever increasing U.S.-China trade tensions, U.S. President Donald Trump has signed a memorandum aimed at protecting American lobster fishermen who have found export markets drying up.
“If those purchase commitments are not met, the United States Trade Representative has been directed to use his discretion to impose … reciprocal tariffs on the China seafood industry,” said White House trade adviser Peter Navarro in reference to the $150 million purchase commitments made by China in the Phase 1 U.S.-China trade agreement.
He went on to add, Trump has also directed the U.S. Agriculture Department to provide lobster fishermen with the same level of assistance that is been provided to other sectors of the agriculture industry as a means to protect them from harmful trade practices.
Welcoming the move, Senator Angus King of Maine said, the decision would make a huge impact for lobstermen in Maine who have been doubly hurt by Chinese tariffs that were imposed in 2018 as well as the fall in restaurant sales during the coronavirus lockdowns.
“This is definitely good news,” said King while adding, “The timing is good. This has been a tough summer for our lobstermen.”
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office and the Maine Lobstermen’s Association did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The development comes at a time when U.S. lawmakers from Maine have repeatedly called for aid for the lobster industry, which supports the livelihood of 4,500 state-licensed lobstermen and an additional 10,000 people, generating about $1.5 billion in economic impact each year.
Navarro also called on the USTR to develop recommendations over the next three months on ways to address a loss of market share by American lobster fishermen to a Canada-Europe trade agreement.