Cabotage Off the Table in Trade Talks

Friday, November 12, 1999
The Jones Act will not be on the table when a new round of talks on international trade in services begins this fall, according to a draft document prepared by U.S. trade officials outlining U.S. objectives for the negotiations. The document outlines the Administration's broad goals and industry-specific negotiating objectives for the upcoming "Seattle Round" of services trade negotiations under the World Trade Organization, so called because the talks will begin with a meeting of international trade ministers in Seattle, November 30-December 3. The 1994 General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) requires a new round of services negotiations begin by January 1, 2000. While the Administration is still consulting with Congress and the private sector to finalize U.S. objectives for the negotiations, the draft document sens the clear signal the Administration does not view U.S. cabotage laws as open to negotiation. The document also previews the U.S. position on international maritime services: "The U.S. will consider making an offer on international maritime services when a critical mass of our trading partners are prepared to make substantial commitments that are truly market opening offers" to ensure "full and free access to international commercial shipping markets, port and auxiliary services and intermodal transport services." The draft document reflects the results on ongoing discussions between the U.S. maritime industry and U.S. trade officials. "The U.S. maritime industry is strongly opposed to the inclusion of maritime services in the GATS. To bring the industry to the table would require cabotage trade…be clearly off the table" and that a critical mass of foreign governments be prepared to make substantial commitments to improve access to their international shipping markets, the document stated.

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