EU lawmakers back U.S. lobster deal after Biden election win

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union lawmakers have backed a small trade deal with the United States to remove EU tariffs on U.S. lobsters following Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the U.S. presidential election.

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Under an agreement struck in August, the EU plans to remove tariffs of 8%-12% on imports of lobsters, while the United States will halve its duties on imports of certain glassware, ceramics, disposable lighters and prepared meals.

The deal, worth some $200 million in annual trade, needs to be approved by the European Parliament and by the European Council, the grouping of EU governments.

Parliamentary backing had been in doubt given strained relations between the bloc and the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, which has imposed punitive tariffs on EU steel and aluminium.

The chair of parliament’s international trade committee, Bernd Lange, said last month that lawmakers should consider rejecting the deal.

However, the committee has now backed the agreement by 40 votes to two, parliament said on Wednesday, and it is likely to go before the full European Parliament in late November.

“Thanks to our engagement, the Commission is now more assertive on the U.S. aluminium tariffs. This, in addition with a new U.S. administration, puts the lobster deal in a new light,” Lange said in a statement after the vote.

“Let’s move forward and use this deal as a stepping stone for more constructive transatlantic dialogue.”

The deal will help level the playing field for U.S. producers, notably in the state of Maine, whose European sales declined after a trade deal between Canada and the EU eliminated tariffs on Canadian lobsters.

The U.S. industry has also been hurt by Chinese tariffs imposed in 2018 and the collapse of sales to restaurants during coronavirus-related lockdowns.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Catherine Evans