The Maine International Trade Center is launching a new “Global U” education series to give small businesses a leg up on global success.
Seminars will start Wednesday, Sept. 19, and run through May 2019, on a wide range of topics such as exporting, international marketing online and global social media and cyber security, at three levels, MITC said in a news release on Wednesday.
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America’s live lobster sales to China hit a two-year low in July, the first month a new tariff on Maine’s signature export took effect.
The United States shipped $4.2 million of live lobster to China in July, a 64 percent decline from May and June levels, according to WISERTrade, a trade analysis firm. The data shows that what had been shaping up to be a banner year for U.S. lobster sales to China collapsed after July 5, when that country levied a 25 percent import tariff on U.S. lobster.
Before the tariff, the U.S. had sold $87 million worth of lobster to China, bringing 2018 year-to-date totals to more than double the $39.5 million worth of lobster the U.S. had sold to China during that same period in 2017, which, up until 2018, had been the best year on record for live U.S. lobster exports to China, data shows.
This spring, some dealers were seeing a 120 percent year-over-year growth, according to the Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association.
“We had every indication China was going to continue to be a robust market opportunity,” said Annie Tselikis, the association’s executive director.
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On this Labor Day, President Trump says the average worker in America is doing better than ever as he works to fix what he calls “some of the worst trade deals ever made.” Some industries are praising the new trade deals, but here in Maine there is concern new tariffs are hurting our state.
At the Maine International Trade Center, Wade Merritt sees a passing cargo ship as a symbol of success. Weekly container ship service in and out of Portland is opening new markets for Maine businesses.
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A lobster wholesaler in York invested $1.5 million to expand its facilities. Maine Coast was finishing up renovations when Maine lobsters were hit with a 25% punitive tariff in mainland China. Owner Tom Adams says Chinese sales accounted for more than 20% of their business last year.
“In 2017, from the period of July 6th to the end of August, we’ve shipped over 300,000 pounds into mainland China,” said Adams. “This year we are around 30,000 pounds same time period.” Adams estimates about an 89% decrease of sales to mainland China, forcing Maine Coast to find other buyers to cover costs. “We are selling lobsters at a lower price point than we were other years to keep busy,” said Adams.
The Maine International Trade Center tells NEWS CENTER Maine that July numbers won’t be available until mid-September.
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Even in the face of recent tariffs on a host of overseas goods by President Trump and the resulting retaliations by foreign governments, businesses in Maine are still making their presence felt in the global marketplace.
In fact, last year Maine companies exported $2.7 billion in goods and services to 176 countries around the world, and international trade supports nearly 1 in 4 jobs across the state, according to the Maine International Trade Center.
To assist Maine businesses in developing and expanding their international trade opportunities, this fall the center will offer a new, three-tiered approach to providing the practical skills needed to succeed globally.
Called GlobalU, the education series will include a variety of in-person seminars and live webinars that will focus on the four main pillars of international trade – logistics, finance, legal and marketing.
GlobalU runs from September through May and kicks off with an entry-level seminar entitled “Accidental Exporter” on Sept. 19 at RiRa’s on Commercial Street. This introductory session is designed to cover the core things businesses need to consider when selling their products on the international scene.
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On the heels of US President Donald Trump’s $12 billion aid package to help American farmers who may suffer losses in the tariff dispute with China, several members in the US House of Representatives are backing a plan to help fishermen and the fishing industry.
Representative Seth Moulton, Democrat from Massachusetts, introduced a bill to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which governs marine fisheries management in US federal waters. The House approved a reauthorization of Magnuson-Stevens last month.
The bill introduced by Moulton would provide disaster relief for fisheries due to certain tariffs imposed by other countries, and for other purposes.
Co-sponsors of the bill, introduced on July 25, are all Democrats and include representatives Chellie Pingree of Maine, Stephen Lynch and William Keating, both of Massachusetts, Jared Huffman of California and Raul Grijalva of Arizona.
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Maine’s North Atlantic Development Office is putting together a trade mission headed by Gov. Paul LePage for companies interested in increasing business with the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The nine-day trade mission in September will feature “business meetings, group events, and unique cultural opportunities designed to help Maine companies expand their business development networks in these important markets,” according to the office.
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Every month, Jim Knott Jr. orders at least a thousand tons of steel rods for his wire factory here in the Blackstone Valley. But the shipment from Canada that arrived in June carried an unwelcome addition: an extra charge of $54,000 to cover a new tariff President Trump imposed on foreign steel as part of his aggressive trade policy.
The next shipment of imported steel cost Knott thousands of dollars extra, too. The whopping increase in costs has put Knott in an impossible position: His company, Riverdale Mills, processes the steel rods into coated wire mesh that is used to make most of the commercial lobster traps in the United States. Suddenly, Knott had to choose between eating the 25 percent surcharge or raising his prices and risking losing customers to cheaper foreign competitors.
For now, Knott has decided to eat the extra costs. But as Trump wheels between confrontation and negotiation with US trade partners, Knott said he is not sure how much longer he can hold the line.
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China was so hungry for Maine lobster last summer that Stephanie Nadeau, a live lobster dealer from Arundel, was selling $100,000 of lobster to Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai on a good day. She was living and breathing the China lobster market, which after seven years of 1 a.m. sales calls and repeated trips to the mainland had grown to account for a third of her annual sales.
The lobster pipeline from Maine to China shut down on July 5, however, when China hit U.S. lobsters with a 25 percent import tax in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on imported Chinese goods. Since then, Nadeau’s business, The Lobster Co., has not sold a lobster to China, despite daily phone calls and a trip to the Pearl River Delta to visit her Chinese customers last week.
Nadeau estimates that the tariffs will cost The Lobster Co. about $10 million in 2018 sales. It is still selling to other places in Asia, including Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore, but without China, Nadeau has had to lay off two people, cutting her total employee count down to 20, and reduce the number of times she buys lobster from five times a week to two.
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Bob Baines does not believe new foreign tariffs will have an immediate impact on the Maine lobster industry.
“The state is catching mostly new-shell lobsters that don’t ship well to China or the EU yet,” he said, plucking a few twisting lobsters from his haul to display the small number mature enough for an overseas voyage.
That won’t last, Baines said, and harder shells will come with more difficult trade barriers.
Moving quickly around the deck of his lobster boat Thrasher, Baines unloaded flat crates of live catch onto a dock adjacent to the Spruce Head Fisherman’s Co-Op, where he serves as president of the South Thomaston nonprofit that brokers sales for more than 40 dues-paying members.
Tariffs will undoubtedly affect prices as fall approaches, Baines concluded, and the lobster dealers he has spoken to are not happy.
“The international market is very important to the Maine lobster industry, and any loss in market means a lower price to the lobstermen, which directly affects our profit,” he said.
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