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INDUSTRYINSIGHT more news at www.heavyliftpfi.com


The imposition of tariffs has caused some anxiety at US ports where steel makes up a large part of cargo throughput.


Protectionist measures threaten the health of shipping and trade


News that the USA has imposed a 25 percent tariff on imports of steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminium was met with an overwhelmingly negative reaction from the international community. As well as the detrimental effects on US ports that rely on steel cargo as a staple part of their business, the escalating threat of a trade war has the potential to negatively impact the wider multipurpose shipping sector, writes David Kershaw.


U


S President Donald Trump’s administration stated that it would


impose the tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, with effect from March 23, in a bid to restrict imports from China, which it says have driven down prices and put US companies out of business.


The imposition of tariffs has caused some anxiety at US ports where steel makes up a large part of cargo throughput. The Northwest Seaports Alliance (NWSA) – a joint venture between the ports of Tacoma and Seattle – said that steel and aluminum imports through its gateways exceeded USD2.5 billion in value in 2017.


Reckless approach “We support vigorous enforcement of fair trade laws and a level playing field, but this reckless approach puts too many people and industries in the economic crosshairs,” said Courtney Gregoire, president of the Port of Seattle Commission and co-chair of the NWSA. Don Meyer, president of the


port of Tacoma commission and also NWSA co-chair,


www.heavyliftpfi.com


trading system and world trade”. The statement called on WTO members to “refrain from taking protectionist measures and to avoid risks of escalation”.


Although shipping analyst


Drewry concluded that the impact of tariffs on US steel imports on the multipurpose sector would be limited, the Baltic and International Maritime Council’s (BIMCO) chief shipping analyst, Peter Sand, warned that trade tensions could have a negative impact on the global shipping industry.


agreed: “Just as concerning as these blanket tariffs is the potential for retaliatory tariffs on exports of Washington [State’s] agricultural and manufactured goods. “As a state in which


40 percent of our jobs are tied to international trade, we are risking jobs and quality of life by levying blanket tariffs against some of our most important trading partners and opening the door to their retaliation.” A last-minute decision by the USA to exempt the EU, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and South Korea from the tariffs on a temporary basis has softened the blow somewhat. However,


economic relations between two of the world’s largest economies – the USA and China – continue to sour. Global economic markets fell sharply after China reacted to Trump’s decision, suggesting that it would retaliate with its own higher duties on US goods, including steel pipe. The ensuing threat of a trade war between two of the world’s largest economic powers has sparked concerns across the globe.


In May, 41 members of the


World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a statement expressing their concerns over “increased trade tensions and related risks for the multilateral


Consequences “Open economies are all better off from trading, as they make use of their resources in the most optimal way. The result of a trade war is more expensive goods of lower quality and little variety. This goes for all products and commodities,” said Sand. “Overall we are seeing more


trade-restrictive measures introduced. Some more high- profile than others. This is a worrying trend that limits demand for shipping globally. Even worse for shipping could be short-sighted political positions that may have lasting consequences for everyone involved in global industries like shipping if a large-scale trade war emerges.”


May/June 2018


HLPFI 133


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