Pierluisi outlines next steps regarding the Cabotage Act
Rep Pierluisi speaking to Puerto Rico Chamber
News Release from Office of Rep Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR)
(Google translation -- Link to Spanish original)
Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, today outlined the steps that will be taken in Congress on Cabotage Act in light of the findings of the Office of the Comptroller General of the United States known as the GAO and the current political environment.
"My office is in the process of drafting legislation that I will introduce next month, to provide specific exemptions for Puerto Rico with respect to the Jones Act. My goals are to expand the universe of vessels that can transport natural gas and other fuel products from the U.S. to Puerto Rico to help reduce the cost of electricity, improve our air quality and ensure that Puerto Rico is a more attractive to live and do business," said Pierluisi, who was one of the keynote speakers at the annual convention of the Chamber of Commerce of Puerto Rico.
The Resident Commissioner explained that the legislative environment in Washington does not easily lend to make amendments to the cabotage laws that have broad support at the federal level. Over the years, Congress has approved a limited number of exceptions to the Jones Act and has never allowed an entire jurisdiction or a full port is exempt from the Jones Act.
For that reason Pierluisi asked two years ago to the GAO study, the investigative arm of Congress.
"Thanks to the GAO study, we identify those areas in which there are not enough qualified cargo vessels available to meet the legitimate needs of people and business in Puerto Rico. These areas of failure are concentrated in the transportation of different types of fuel and bulk cargo for agriculture and similar products from the United States," explained Pierluisi.
The report confirmed that due to the difference in freight rates and the low number of American flag vessels available to transport some types of cargo, the Jones Act causes Puerto Rican importers to prefer to buy in foreign locations, even though the products are available in the United States. Furthermore, in the bulk cargo market, one of the goals of the Jones Act to facilitate trade between the U.S. jurisdictions is not being met. Instead, in these cases the law becomes an obstacle, not an advantage, for domestic trade.
"This hurts American citizens from Puerto Rico and the states," said Pierluisi.
The legislation currently being drafted by the Resident Commissioner's office will seek permit bulk cargo barge construction and foreign flag may transport agricultural products and goods between Puerto Rico and the United States. This would provide economic relief to farmers and allow Puerto Ricans to improve their ability to purchase these goods from American suppliers at competitive prices, rather than limiting it to import from foreign countries.
"There is no single solution to our problems. We must focus on strengthening manufacturing, increase our tourism, create a real market for medical tourism, getting to be the leading energy provider in the Caribbean, turning the island into a model of renewable energy and related industries, promote the export of our goods and services, both in America and in the Caribbean and South America, and to promote a stable business environment and attractive. That's what we need to become the Puerto Rico we all want. My commitment has always been to provide the best opportunities for Puerto Ricans to compete in the global economy. I will work hard to achieve these amendments and I hope to have the support of the Chamber of Commerce, as well as all private industry in Puerto Rico," said the Resident Commissioner.
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