Friday, October 23, 2020

New Report Gives a Lucid Argument for Trade Restriction as Chinese Maritime Power Grows

US Treasures the Jones Act Despite Deterring a Free Market
Shipping News Feature

US – Lots of backslapping, admiration and self-congratulation this week as the US maritime industry relishes the latest report from the Navy League. The title of the report 'China's Use of Maritime for Global Power Demands a Strong Commitment to American Maritime’, sets out pretty clearly the view of the League on the Jones Act and all its ramifications.

As in the case of gun control, section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act 1920, or the Jones Act to give it its full title, tends to make politicians hide under their desks rather than comment adversely on legislation that ensures all domestic waterborne trade in the United States is carried by ships built and flagged there and crewed and worked upon only by American citizens.

The argument against this is of course that the restriction of trade that ensues by eschewing a free market, as is the case conducted for example with container feeder ships travelling between European ports, costs are considerably increased for those using the US services to shift freight.

Speaking out against the Jones Act incurs cries of ‘unpatriotic’ and mutterings with regard to the loss of Homeland Security, so for the League, formed even before the Act it so vehemently supports, and which is dedicated to advocating the continuing strength of the country’s naval forces, this report was bound to attract the plaudits from such as Shipbuilders Council of America (SCA) and the American Maritime Partnership (AMP).

However this particular document puts a much better case than the usual flag waving, partisan pieces in support of the Act. By setting out the case as a comparison between the situation at the end of the First World War, when the Jones legislation was drafted after the US had found itself wanting in the field of maritime defence, and the current situation witnessing China’s rapid expansion to dominate waters around the globe, it sets out a strong argument.

Mike Roberts, President of the American Maritime Partnership was unequivocal in his praise for the report, saying:

“This study by the Navy League US raises important questions about China’s ambition to dominate the global maritime supply chain. It requires a thoughtful policy response from the United States, including a renewed commitment to a robust American maritime industry, which is critical to our national security.”

Unsurprisingly a similar level of praise came from Shipbuilders Council of America (SCA) President Matthew Paxton who enthused:

“The US Navy League’s latest report on China’s strategy to advance global maritime dominance confirms what American shipbuilders have witnessed for decades, which is Beijing funnelling hundreds of billions into its shipbuilding programs to manipulate world markets and strengthen the country's power on land and sea.

”While China will not rest in this pursuit, it is even more critical that we continue to build and repair the US commercial and military fleets to bolster the American economy and protect domestic and national security.”

Certainly this is a document which anyone who has an interest in the global maritime situation and the growth of Chinese power on the seas of the world will find worthwhile reading. The US has been accusing the Chinese of deliberately dumping cash on poorer nations to enable it to gain a foothold in key strategic territories such as Djibouti, for so long the almost exclusive province and tactics of America herself.