by Mike Hansen, Hawaii Shippers Council
The Oslo-based maritime publication TradeWinds reported on the comments from Guy Verhofstadt regarding the efforts of the European Commission to gain access to the closed U.S. maritime markets through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a bilateral free trade agreement between the 28 member European Union (EU) and the United States (US).
Verhofstadt is a former Belgian prime minister, current leader of the liberal parties in the European Parliament, and director of a leading Belgian shipowner, Exmar.
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TTIP 'can open Jones Act'
Trade Winds 05 March 2015
A prominent European politician has urged the region's shipowners to get behind important trade talks with the US that could open up access to coastal trades currently blocked under the US Jones Act.
Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian prime minister and now leader of the liberal parties in the European parliament, said negotiations over the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could open up the "unfair" and "blatantly one-side" Jones Act restrictions on US cabotage trades.
Verhofstadt, who is also an independent director of leading Belgian shipowner Exmar, said TTIP was a huge potential opportunity rather than a threat, despite concerns over data privacy and social issues.
"If an agreement is reached between the world's two biggest trading blocs it will set standards worldwide," he told guests at the gala dinner to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the European Community Shipowners Association (ECSA) in Brussels on Wednesday night.
"It will be practically impossible for other countries to ignore this enormous step forward in world trade, a step that will make life easier for global business, especially if we achieve what we want also for shipping."
Negotiations over TTIP, which are being lead by European trade commissioner Cecilia Malstrom, are an opportunity for shipping to finally obtain reciprocity with the US over protectionist coastal trade rules, he said.
"It is unfair that European ships cannot engage in cabotage or even international feedering operations in the US because of the so-called Jones Act, while US shipping companies don't suffer from such restrictions here in Europe.
"It is unacceptable that market access is so blatantly one-sided."
Detailed terms of the possible exemptions to the Jones Act for European Union shipping companies will be on the negotiating table in the coming months.
"European shipowners should raise their voice. I can only urge you to raise your voice, to the (European) Commission, to the (European) Parliament, to everybody involved, so that steps are taken to remedy this situation."