Ports and Terminals Are Central To Any Trade Strategy

April 24, 2017

Inland ports and terminals are preparing for what looks to be another record or near-record crop year. While a repeal of some of the last administration’s rules and regulations has engendered optimism among some businesses and investors, mixed messages regarding the Trump administration’s infrastructure and trade plans are still creating uncertainty.

According to the American Association of Port Authorities, port cargo activity supports the jobs of more than 23 million people in the United States––an increase of 9.8 million jobs since 2007. Port-related jobs also provide for $1.2 billion in personal income and local consumption. For every $1 billion worth of exports shipped through U.S. seaports, 15,000 jobs are created.

Port cargo activity accounts for 26 percent of the U.S. economy. U.S. ports generated nearly $4.6 trillion in total economic activity and more than $321 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2014.

Global trade doesn’t sit still or wait on Washington budget debates. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting increased production of most U.S. crops, but also increased production from export competitors. Farmers continue to worry that waterways infrastructure deterioration and repair delays could blunt the transportation edge that our unparalleled river transportation system gives their export crops for now––especially since South American port infrastructure is now being significantly upgraded.

The last couple of years of the last administration saw a flurry of positive action from the Maritime Administration under the leadership of Paul “Chip” Jaenichen, as many Marine Highways were designated and seed funding was provided for several container-on-barge projects. It was necessary preparatory work that showed a welcome level of federal attention to inland waterways and ports.

But all the forethought and attention will only bear fruit with the necessary level of infrastructure funding for locks and dams and dredging for which ports, inland waterways advocates and trade organizations have been calling for decades.

No matter what the global economy does or doesn’t do, or what is decided in Washington, there is no rational trade policy that would neglect the infrastructure of our ports and terminals, which bridge local U.S. economies to the global economy.

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