Lobsters are packed for shipment at the Lobster Company in Kennebunkport in March. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

A European Union committee has approved a trade deal that would eliminate import duties on Maine lobsters sold to Europe.

The European Parliament’s international trade committee voted 40-2 to approve the deal — which would assist the lobster industry across the United States — on Tuesday. It awaits a vote by the full European Parliament, as well as the more powerful European Council, before it can be enacted.

The trade deal cements an agreement between the EU and the U.S. from August that would decrease European tariffs on American lobster products by 8 percent to 12 percent. In return, the U.S. would reduce tariffs on prepared meals, ceramics, lighters and glassware.

Tariffs are a form of taxes placed on imports that place an extra cost for industries doing business abroad. Reduced tariffs in European markets would eliminate an extra cost for Maine companies as they sell lobster products to the continent.

Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association Executive Director Annie Tselikis told the Portland Press Herald that the body’s overwhelming approval of the deal was a cause for celebration, especially after the deal was nearly abandoned in October due to other trade disputes between the U.S. and EU.

An impending tariff reduction would be good news for an industry that has been heavily hit by President Donald Trump’s trade wars and declines to the COVID-19 pandemic. Maine’s lobster industry has also been at a disadvantage in European markets compared to its Canadian counterparts since a 2017 free trade agreement between the EU and Canada.

Lobster made up 47 percent of catches in pounds, but 73 percent of total value in Maine’s nearly $674 million commercial fishing industry in 2019, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

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