China trade war has Massachusetts lawmakers wanting new export markets for lobsters

China has imposed a 25 percent tariff, hurting exports from New England

Lobsterman Jason Grindle unloads his catch from the Gulf of Maine at the Stonington Lobster Co-op in Stonington, Maine, in July. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images file photo)

New England lobster trappers have been among victims of the trade tensions between the United States and China.

Members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation want the Trump administration to help their home state lobster industry by seeking new export markets for the crustaceans.

That’s a bid to offset a 25 percent tariff that has been imposed by China in the back-and-forth trade war with President Donald Trump.

Democratic Sens. Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren signed the letter dated Monday to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Massachusetts Democratic Reps. William Keating, Joe Kennedy III, Stephen Lynch and Seth Moulton were also signatories.

“U.S. lobster exports to China are down more than 80 percent since June 2018, which is reflected in the losses reported by local Massachusetts lobster companies. At least two businesses have been forced to cease operations, leaving more than 250 employees out of work, and the U.S. lobster industry more vulnerable to long-term decline and competition from Canada,” the Massachusetts lawmakers wrote.

The decline in the Chinese market is the latest complication for the lobster business in the northeast United States, and the letter to Lighthizer coincided with a state legislative hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in Boston.

“While Massachusetts state legislators are exploring solutions for economic relief at the state level, it is imperative that there be federal resolve to assist the Massachusetts lobstermen whose livelihoods heavily relied on exports to China,” the lawmakers wrote.

The members of the Massachusetts delegation also signaled they want Lighthizer to explore an expansion of the European export market.

“We would like to highlight that the Canadian-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement provides tariff-free access for Canadian lobster products being sold in the European Union,” they wrote, noting that agreement is “putting American lobster products at a serious disadvantage.”

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