Trump pledges assistance to U.S. lobster industry, threatens China with more tariffs

US exports of lobster to China plummet in 2019

USDA trade adviser Tom Kehoe gives his take on China raising its tariff on U.S. lobster imports and how the trade war is affecting farmers.

President Trump issued a memo in support of the United States lobster industry Wednesday, directing the Department of Agriculture to give subsidies and other financial assistance to U.S. lobster fishermen if necessary.

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The U.S. lobster industry has been caught in the middle of the trade war between the U.S. and China. Depending on the species, American lobsters currently face tariffs by China of either 35 percent or 37 percent.

The details of assistance to the lobster industry are unclear, but it will likely be similar to the $19 billion worth of subsidies that American farmers received in 2019.

TRUMP: US-CHINA TRADE DEAL IS 'FULLY INTACT'

Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He signed phase one of the U.S.-China trade deal in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 15. The pact didn’t require China to get rid of its tariffs on American lobsters, but it did ask the nation to purchase more.

In his memo Wednesday, Trump also directed U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer to report Aug. 15 whether China is living up to the standards for lobster purchases laid out in the phase one trade deal. If not, he’s directed Lighthizer to take “all appropriate action to impose reciprocal retaliatory tariffs on seafood exports from China.”

The U.S. trade representative's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said this issue first came to a head during Trump’s trip to Maine earlier this month and that the president has since delivered.

“Visiting Maine several weeks ago, Maine’s beleaguered lobster fisherman asked for help defending against China’s retaliatory tariffs and the president delivered today with a presidential memo that provides assistance to those who have been harmed and seeks to ensure the Chinese Communist Party will honor its purchase commitments from the Phase One deal," Navarro said in a statement to FOX Business.

US TRADE DEFICIT WIDENS AS EXPORTS HIT 10-YEAR LOW

The president named Navarro the "lobster king" on that Maine trip and told a group of commercial fishermen that if the European Union doesn't eliminate its tariffs on American lobsters, then he would put tariffs on their cars.

When Canada and the EU signed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement in 2017, it got rid of the EU's tariffs on Canadian lobsters. But American lobster fishermen still face an 8 percent tariff on lobsters exported to the EU, putting them at a competitive disadvantage relative to their northern neighbors.

Trump also addressed this in his memo Wednesday, instructing Lighthizer to prepare a report on how the negative effects of Canada's deal with the EU can be minimized.

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