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Federal lawmakers from Massachusetts are urging the US trade representative to “explore new markets for American lobster exports” following a year-plus of heavy Chinese tariffs on the imported crustacean.

In a letter to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the lawmakers said, “US lobster exports to China are down more than 80 percent since June 2018, which is reflected in the losses reported by local Massachusetts lobster companies.” Here’s a look at the issue.

What’s the impact on Mass.?

According to the lawmakers, two Massachusetts lobster-related businesses have ceased operations, leaving more than 250 workers out of a job. US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey, along with Representatives Stephen F. Lynch, William R. Keating, Seth Moulton, and Joseph P. Kennedy III signed the letter.

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China placed heavy tariffs on US lobsters, and many other food products, in July 2018 amid rising hostilities between the Chinese and Trump administrations, according to the Associated Press.

What can be done?

Massachusetts state legislators are considering economic relief at the state level, and the lawmakers said “it is imperative that there be federal resolve to assist the Massachusetts lobstermen whose livelihoods heavily relied on exports to China.”

Lighthizer has indicated trade agreements with countries in Africa and southeast Asia could help replace the loss of the Chinese market, according to the letter.

The Massachusetts politicians pointed out that another trade agreement “provides tariff-free access for Canadian lobster products being sold in the European Union, putting American lobster products at a serious disadvantage.”

They want a response from Lighthizer by Sept. 30.

As of June, American lobster exports to China fell 80 percent from the same period last year.

‘Collateral damage’

According to the State House News Service, state Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, of Gloucester, said in a June letter that the state’s lobstering industry “has become collateral damage in the Trump Administration’s trade war with China.”

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Ferrante has proposed a bill that would require state officials to prepare an annual strategic report for the state’s commercial fishing and shellfish industry. The evaluation would come with recommendations for ways to maintain and revitalize those industries.

In recent days, the Trump administration and Beijing have acted to de-escalate tensions before a new round of trade talks planned for October in Washington, the AP reported on Monday. Yet most analysts foresee no significant agreement emerging this fall in the conflict, which is fundamentally over Beijing’s aggressive drive to supplant America’s technological dominance.


Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.