Authority approved by American lawmakers to fast-track trade deals could rekindle a push by shipowners for greater access to US markets.
The US Senate voted on 24 June to establish trade promotion authority, known as TPA. The legislation gives the White House the power to send trade deals to Congress for a vote without giving lawmakers the ability to change them.
National Retail Federation president Matthew Shay called TPA “a landmark step” toward tearing down trade barriers. “TPA will help complete trade agreements that will open new markets for US companies and help retailers provide American families with the products they need at prices they can afford.”
The legislation, which President Obama has supported and is expected to sign, is considered essential to completing two major pacts, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
European liner operators, backed by the European Community Shipowners’ Association, have sought to use TTIP, over which the US and EU have been negotiating since 2013, to seek Jones Act waivers that would allow them to compete with US port-to-port feeder services. The Jones Act limits such services to US vessel operators.
European dredging companies have also sought to leverage TTIP for Jones Act changes. They see the talks as offering them a chance of gaining access to the US dredging market, from which they are barred by both the Jones Act and the 1906 Foreign Dredge Act.
Charlie Papavizas, a maritime attorney with law firm Winston & Strawn in Washington, DC, commented to IHS Maritime, “those are both longshots, but there’s a certain amount of agitation going on with European shipowners.”