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Maine companies feeling pinch of Trump's tariffs, workers laid off

The Lobster Co. in Arundel says it's had to lay off workers

STATEWIDE (WGME) - On this Labor Day, President Trump says the average worker in America is doing better than ever as he works to fix what he calls "some of the worst trade deals ever made."

Some industries are praising the new trade deals, but here in Maine there is concern new tariffs are hurting our state.

At the Maine International Trade Center, Wade Merritt sees a passing cargo ship as a symbol of success.

Weekly container ship service in and out of Portland is opening new markets for Maine businesses.

"We're going to be a star on the east coast, and we're going to be moving goods in and out of this port out of this country and into this country," said Gov. Paul LePage during a visit to Portland in July.

In 2017, Maine companies exported nearly $3 billion in goods.

According to Census data, lobsters top the list of exports from Maine.

"No big surprise we're still very much a natural-resource based state," Merritt said.

However, there's increasing concern from Maine's Congressional delegation that the on-going trade war is hurting Maine's lobster industry.

"It's becoming a crisis for the lobster dealers in Maine," said Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine).

While Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine) said he supports the president in trying to get trade agreements balanced, he said he's concerned about hurting industries that are doing well.

"Lobster is Maine...we have to keep pushing back," he said.

This summer China imposed a new 25% tax on Maine lobsters in retaliation for trade actions by President Trump.

"I've really focused my business on China so this hurts me in particular," said Stephanie Nadeau, The Lobster Co. in Arundel.

Nadeau said she's had to let go a quarter of her employees as cheaper Canadian lobsters take the place of Maine lobsters in China.

"There's a fair amount of concern around that," Merritt said.

Merritt said trade supports nearly 1 in 4 Maine jobs.

It's not only Maine's lobster industry feeling the pinch.

Manufacturing companies are also impacted by new tariffs on steel imported from Canada.

"They make everything from medical devices to the craft brewing industry," Merritt said.

Hussey Seating in North Berwick uses steel to make seats for stadiums, auditoriums, and gyms around the world.

"We have no ability to go back to our customers to ask for a price increase. So, we're going to be eating that increase in steel costs. And going forward, it's going to reduce our profitability," said Gary Merrill, Hussey Seating.

President Trump says the tariffs are needed to level the playing field and to bring countries to the negotiating table.

"We can't have these countries taking advantage of the United States anymore; it's very simple," President Trump said.

On Friday the White House notified Congress it plans to renegotiate NAFTA.

President Trump said a new deal will bring jobs back to the United States and support workers in America.

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