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Effort To Roll Back Chinese Tariffs On Lobster Moves Ahead

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
Lobsterman Bill Matthews hauls in a trap while fishing off Cape Porpoise, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, in Kennebunkport, Maine.

There appears to be further movement in the effort to knock back Chinese tariffs on American lobster.

Monday the Chinese government announced it would allow Chinese businesses to apply for a tariff exemption that would let them buy American lobster at a lower price. The exemption could last as long as a year and could be renewed after that. Full details have not been released yet, but it appears that those who win the exemption would see the tariff rate on American lobster drop to China's "favored nation" status. That would bring the tariff rate from about 30 percent to about 7 percent.

"I don't want to downgrade it. It is definitely good news..." says U.S. Sen. Angus King.

King and the rest of Maine's congressional delegation has been pushing the Trump administration to negotiate a cut in the tariffs, which started to rise in 2018 and have stalled what had been a growth market for Maine lobster dealers.

King says the need to apply for and renew an exemption each year could make it hard for Maine dealers to repair relationships with Chinese buyers who have already moved on to Canadian sellers.

"It would be much better if we could just get this knocked off altogether," he says.

In a joint statement, the delegation members say they want to make sure that China fulfills an obligation to buy more U.S lobster than it did two years ago, before the tariff was raised.

Updated to add Sen. King's statements at 5:10 p.m. Feb. 25, 2020

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.