SHIPPING INDUSTRY GROUP URGES U.S. TO JOIN WTO SHIPPING TALKS
The International Chamber of Shipping has urged the U.S. administration to engage in World Trade Organization talks on a potential multilateral binding agreement to liberalize maritime transport services.
Chris Horrocks, secretary general of the London-based industry group, wrote to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick to encourage his office to take an “active involvement” in the current maritime transport discussions within the WTO.
“Now that the WTO negotiations are about to begin in earnest, the International Chamber of Shipping is keen to stress the importance of a comprehensive global trade regime for shipping, and its significance to the health of the world economy as whole,” the shipping association said. The association comprises national shipowners’ associations from 40 countries, including the Chamber of Shipping of America, that collectively represent the majority of the world’s merchant fleet.
Previous multilateral attempts by the WTO and its predecessor, GATT, to reach an agreement to liberalize maritime transport services failed in 1993 and in 1996. In 1996, the decision of the U.S. not to enter negotiations was regarded as the main obstacle to an agreement.
In its letter to the U.S. Trade Representative, the International Chamber of Shipping sought to reassure the U.S. administration that the Jones Act domestic cabotage protection would not be a target for other governments within WTO negotiations on shipping.
“In respect of the Jones Act, we understand from our contacts with other major trading nations that there is no intention of including the issue of domestic cargoes or cabotage trades on the WTO agenda for maritime services,” the International Chamber of Shipping said.
A source within the industry association said that it has advised its national members to ask their respective governments to exclude domestic cabotage from WTO talks on shipping liberalization.
“For strategic reasons, national associations are encouraged to refrain from suggesting to their governments that the issue of domestic cargoes or cabotage restrictions should be included in the WTO agenda,” a spokesman said.
The International Chamber of Shipping believes that the success of the WTO negotiations on maritime transport is likely to be affected considerably by the attitude of the United States.