ELLSWORTH — United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and European Union Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan announced last Friday an agreement on a package of tariff reductions that will increase market access for hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. and EU exports.
These tariff reductions are the first U.S.-EU negotiated reductions in duties in more than two decades.
Under the agreement, the EU will eliminate tariffs on imports of live and frozen lobster products from the United States. That should mean some good news for the Maine lobster industry.
U.S. exports of live and frozen lobster products to the EU were more than $111 million in 2017. According to estimates from the Maine International Trade Center, Maine exported around $152 million worth of lobster to the EU in 2016.
Maine’s lobster exports to the EU were severely affected after Canada and the European Union signed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in 2016. The agreement eliminated tariffs on Canadian lobsters imported into the EU while lobsters imported from the United States were still burdened by tariffs ranging between 8 and 20 percent.
The EU will eliminate the tariffs on a Most Favored Nation (MFN) basis, retroactive to Aug. 1 of this year. The EU tariffs will be eliminated for a period of five years and the European Commission will promptly initiate procedures aimed at making the tariff changes permanent.
In return for the EU actions, the United States will reduce by 50 percent its tariff rates on a variety of products exported by the EU worth an average annual trade value of $160 million. Included on the list are some prepared meals, some crystal glassware, surface preparations, propellant powders, cigarette lighters and lighter parts. The U.S. tariff reductions will also be made on an MFN basis and retroactive to Aug. 1.
“As part of improving EU-U.S. relations, this mutually beneficial agreement will bring positive results to the economies of both the United States and the European Union,” Ambassador Lighthizer and Commissioner Hogan said in a joint statement. “We intend for this package of tariff reductions to mark just the beginning of a process that will lead to additional agreements that create more free, fair, and reciprocal trans-Atlantic trade.”