Maine lobster dealers are among a group of U.S. seafood exporters asking federal authorities to keep its industry out of the brewing U.S-China trade war, arguing that putting a tariff on Chinese seafood would likely result in painful retaliation against U.S. exports.
Such retaliation would hurt Alaskan fishermen and Maine lobstermen most, industry leaders say.
“Not only because China is a crucial current and future market for U.S. fish, but also because there is no ready substitute for the China market,” said John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute, in testimony to the U.S. trade representative.
Connelly was one of a half-dozen seafood industry leaders to oppose a recent proposal from six shrimp-producing states to levy a tariff on Chinese shrimp imports. They claimed it was unfair to drag seafood into a trade battle that began over intellectual property rights.
Most importantly, they worry about the impact of retaliatory seafood tariffs, especially for lobster.
In 2017, U.S. lobster exports to China were worth more than $90.2 million and rising, Annie Tselikis, executive director of the Maine Lobster Dealers Association, said in written testimony. That’s 125 times bigger than it was just a decade earlier, she said.