Lawmakers ask Trump administration to fairly distribute any lobster tariff assistance among affected states
Washington (July 1, 2020) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Representatives Seth Moulton (MA-06), and William R. Keating (MA-09) wrote to the Trump administration urging it to fairly include the Massachusetts lobster industry in any discussions or distribution of trade relief assistance provided to the lobster industry and seafood producers in response to China’s retaliatory tariffs. The Trump administration issued a memorandum on June 25, 2020 that instructed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to assess the need for assistance and the impact by the retaliatory tariffs on Maine and other affected states. Massachusetts has the second-largest lobster industry of any state, and since the tariffs were imposed in 2018, national lobster sales to China have fallen by 66 percent – from approximately $138 million in 2018 to $47 million in 2019. In addition to the impacts of China’s retaliatory tariffs, the lobster industry has been suffering from the impacts of the Canadian-European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which provides tariff-free access for Canadian lobster products sold in the EU, and the coronavirus pandemic, which has shuttered restaurants and eliminated a primary source of domestic consumption.
“These challenges create a direct need for assistance to this industry, and we urge you to include Massachusetts lobstermen in your efforts to assess how and whether that aid will be distributed,” write the lawmakers in their letter. “This relief could help many small business owners withstand the ongoing economic crisis and preserve a key part of New England’s cultural identity.”
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.
The Massachusetts lawmakers, led by Senator Markey, have championed the swift, equitable, and transparent allocation of financial aid to fishery participants during the coronavirus pandemic and secured a $20 million U.S. Department of Agriculture procurement of Atlantic seafood in May. Senators Markey and Warren, and Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan successfully called on Senate leadership to include support for the fishing industry in coronavirus economic relief packages, of which Massachusetts received $28 million. On June 6, Senators Markey and Warren wrote to Senate leadership and asked for an additional $500 million in fisheries assistance in order to make the fishing and seafood industries in Massachusetts whole from the effects of the pandemic.