ECSA: TTIP Must Lift US Restrictions on EU Operators

TTIP Must Lift US Restrictions on EU Operators

The proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) should meaningfully address and remove the current US restrictions on European maritime transport services as a result of US legislation, including restrictions under the so-called ‘Jones Act,’ European Community Shipowners’ Association (ECSA) says.

The European Parliament will vote today on its much-debated recommendations to the European Commission on the negotiations for the TTIP.

Various restrictions currently apply to EU operators that want to trade in the US. As an example, under the Jones Act, inbound foreign vessels cannot call several US ports to unload their international cargo. Instead, they can only unload the entirety of their cargo in a single US port. That cargo will then be shuttled to other US ports by US flagged, built and manned vessels.

Not only does this represent a major market barrier for EU operators in the US, it is also lacks any reciprocity, as similar restrictions do not apply to US operators in Europe. Another relevant example is the fact that 75 percent of food aid cargo must be exported on US flagged vessels.

TTIP should also avoid that future restrictions can be put in place. Recent plans to provide incentives for US exports of LNG on US flagged vessels confirm the need to have a clear legal commitment to maintain open markets for international maritime transport services, ECSA says.

”Many aspects of the text to be adopted tomorrow have been highly controversial and the focus of intense negotiations. US shipping services restrictions are however not among the contentious issues for Europe. The US and the EU are currently negotiating a major trade deal, which should also include an agreement on shipping services and the US restrictions thereupon,” Dutch MEP and rapporteur of the Transport Committee opinion to the INTA report, Wim van de Camp, said.

The European Commission would however face an uphill battle, as the US administration is generally opposed to the idea of abolishing these restrictions, ECSA says. It is therefore important to find alternatives which will allow for some easing of the US rules.

”Opening up the US market would not only be beneficial to EU operators. US consumers and the US economy alike stand to profit from more competitive shipping services,” ECSA Secretary-General Patrick Verhoeven said.

”Although European shipowners are not after US domestic cargoes, the US government’s position on these measures dictates a more pragmatic approach. Red lines could be bypassed by offering EU operators preferential treatment, which is a much more plausible win-win scenario. For instance, waivers for international feedering and offshore operations could be envisaged as feasible solutions.” 

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has stirred emotions like few other files and the vote tomorrow in the European Parliament is expected to go down to the wire, says ECSA.

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