The European Parliament votes recommendations to the EC on the negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
The European Parliament will vote on Wednesday 10 June on its much-debated recommendations to the European Commission on the negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), ECSA said in its press release. The draft to be adopted during tomorrow’s plenary session has been prepared by the International Trade (INTA) Committee, in coordination with other parliamentary committees. Among the many recommendations put forward, MEPs are inviting the European Commission to meaningfully address and remove the current US restrictions on European maritime transport services as a result of US legislation. This includes restrictions under the so-called ‘Jones Act’, a 1920 Act which regulates maritime trade in US waters and between US ports.
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. Furthermore, the lack of US maritime services often requires trucks to deliver the cargo to other ports, which does not contribute to overall sustainability. 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 for on US flagged vessels confirm the need to have a clear legal commitment to maintain open markets for international maritime transport services.
The EU shipping industry therefore strongly supports the INTA position and hopes that MEPs will understand the importance of asking the European Commission to negotiate on this important issue.
Dutch MEP and rapporteur of the Transport Committee opinion to the INTA report, Mr Wim van de Camp (photo) calls on MEPs to uphold the INTA position: “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.”
Commenting on the way forward, ECSA Secretary-General Patrick Verhoeven said: “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.”
The European Commission would however face an uphill battle, as the US administration is generally opposed to the idea of abolishing these restrictions. It is therefore important to find alternatives which will allow for some easing of the US rules.
“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” he added.
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. If adopted, the opinion will send a signal to the European Commission regarding the stance of the European Parliament, which will play a decisive role once the EU and the US sign the trade agreement.