Thursday, September 17, 2015

TTIP Negotiators Get a View of US Political Standpoint on Restriction of Freight Trade and Shipping

Jones Act Speech Illustrates Entrenched Attitude Endemic in Vested Interests
Shipping News Feature

US – EUROPE – Those in the European Commission charged with negotiating the oft talked about Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP) should perhaps be aware of a speech made in New York this week at the 2015 Tradewinds Jones Act Shipping Forum which gives an insight into the views of many Americans when discussing protectionism in everyday commerce. Tom Allegretti, Chairman of the American Maritime Partnership (AMP), which represents the views of the Jones Act Coalition, the stakeholders who support full retention of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which mandates the transport of all freight shipping between US Ports be carried only on domestic registered vessels, thus preventing any non US competition for container feeder systems etc.

Not only must the vessels be flagged in the US but they also must be constructed there, owned and crewed entirely by native Americans. This has undoubtedly had the effect of keeping intra port and domestic waterway haulage at far higher tariffs than are found in Europe where the free market allows for inter-state competition. This has created a monopoly for US craft whereas Europe has a range of waterborne service industries populated by vessels from various different countries.

We have illustrated previously the intractable attitude of the hard line Jones Act supporters (yes that was Dr Strangelove in the photo) and the AMP boss bore this out with some of his comments this week, all of which can be read in full here.

Mr Allegretti’s main points were centred on the strong support for the Act in the upper echelons of US politics. He made much of the fact that when Senator John McCain filed a Senate floor amendment to repeal the Jones Act he was forced to withdraw it for lack of support, referring to the Senator’s comment at the time that the attempt was to ‘pray to the patron saint of lost causes.’

More seriously the AMP Chairman uses the occasion to claim that the Act is beneficial to Puerto Rico and, in a somewhat twisted fit of logic asserts that to exclude Puerto Ricans from the restraints of the Act would cause them hardship! He said:

“Some in Puerto Rico have suggested that a Jones Act exemption be included in the legislative package under the erroneous theory that the Jones Act is bad for Puerto Rico. But here’s the kicker, if Congress did that, include an anti-Jones Act amendment in the package, the chances of the overall package getting enacted into law would diminish. That’s because the presence of an anti-Jones Act amendment would reduce or subtract the number of Members of Congress who would vote for the overall bill. So Puerto Ricans would be undermining, and maybe even sabotaging, their own assistance package by including an anti-Jones Act amendment in it.”

Obviously Mr Allegretti’s entire career, both as Chair of the AMP and President & CEO of the American Waterways Operators, is somewhat dependent on the restrictive practices which the Jones Act secures but critics would say the rigid standpoint he demonstrates typifies the US attitude to commerce and politics (ask Senator McCain), something which may only be clearly demonstrated as, when and if the TTIP finally comes into being.

Photo:  Tom Allegretti in action.