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ECSA looks forward to fruitful EU-US trade negotiations

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Patrick Verhoeven

Patrick Verhoeven

EU and US negotiators are meeting this week in the context of the sixth Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations round. Negotiators from both sides are debating an ambitious agenda that should, in the event of an agreement, not only remove trade barriers in a wide range of economic sectors, but also tackle non-customs related trade barriers, such as differences in technical regulations, standards and approval procedures. Furthermore, the TTIP negotiations look at opening markets for services, investment, and public procurement.

ECSA welcomes the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks and hopes for an ambitious agreement in which maritime transport and its specificities will be duly taken into account.

EU shipowners support the liberalisation and promotion of EU-US trade, both in services and in goods, as the harmonisation of the EU and US markets will play a key role in fostering trans-Atlantic trade. This will in turn stimulate maritime transport, which will effectively underpin the increased exchanges and act as a vector for the ensuing commercial activity between the two trade partners.

However, restrictions on domestic cargoes, so-called cabotage rules, still firmly exist in the United States. This results from the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, better known as the ‘Jones Act’.

Commenting on the Jones Act, Patrick Verhoeven, ECSA Secretary-General, remarked during a TTIP stakeholder event in Brussels earlier today : “Whilst it is true that restrictions on pure domestic cargoes may not constitute a prime barrier to international maritime trade, the Jones Act does have implications for the delivery of international cargo. Today’s reality is that very often international cargo must be transhipped from one vessel to another, often smaller, vessel, in order to reach its end destination. Under the Jones Act, this ‘feedering’ of international cargo is currently restricted. We would therefore welcome ways to grant full access for international carriers to engage in such operations as they do not constitute purely domestic operations.” Mr Verhoeven continued by alluding to the need for more frequent individual and industry waivers to the Jones Act as well as more flexible and clearer procedures to obtain them.

EU shipowners also advocate greater market access for dredging and offshore services as well as more flexibility as regards transport of empty containers.

Finally, the maritime chapter of TTIP should not just focus on market access restrictions. There are several other fields where progress can be made, for instance in the field of administrative procedures, performance of standard work on board vessels and security procedures.

“A trade agreement without commitments on maritime transport would fall short of the feedback loop between maritime transport and trade, in essence a virtuous circle from which both sides of the Atlantic stand to profit” and added: “The TTIP negotiations should set the scene for further international trade liberalisation” concluded Mr Verhoeven.

Mr. Verhoeven’s statement at the TTIP stakeholder event can be found here

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