Members of the American lobster industry are hopeful the thawing of trade relations between the U.S. and China will reopen one of the biggest markets in the world for the seafood.

President Trump signed the first stage of a trade deal on Wednesday that includes purchase agreements formalizing China’s commitment to buy more American goods and services and specifically highlights lobster regarding U.S. agriculture.

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China is one of the biggest export destinations for lobster, which are trapped by American and Canadian fishermen and are worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year. But President Donald Trump's trade hostilities with China resulted in heavy tariffs on U.S. lobster exports, and Canada has taken firm control of the business over the last 18 months. Trump and China announced a new trade agreement Wednesday that could change that.

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According to the Portland Press Herald, the deal would require China to buy $32 billion worth of U.S. agricultural goods over the next two years.

Susan Collins, who was among those who pushed to have lobster included in the agreement, tweeted out today "I will continue to fight on behalf of Maine's lobstermen & women & work with my colleagues in the Maine delegation to address the challenges facing this iconic fishery."

Federal trade data says after the lobster tariff was imposed in July 2018, live lobster sales to China fell by 46.7 percent in the following 12 months. As a result, China turned to Canada for its lobster.

Before the trade war, “China was the biggest overseas market for U.S. live lobster sales,” the Press Herald says.

"This is great news for lobster dealers, fishermen, communities and the State of Maine,” Dave Sullivan, Grand Lodge Representative for the Machinists Union representing the Maine Lobstering Union was quoted saying in a press release from Sen. Collins.  “The lobster industry has faced many hurdles the last couple years and this agreement will help open markets back up to keep Maine companies competitive with Canada."

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