Five fast international trade predictions
Trade expert expects to see new fees or taxes, strained waterfront labor relations, and more this year.
Each year, Peter Friedmann, Washington counsel for the Coalition of New England Companies for Trade (CONECT) (and a 2011 DCV Thought Leader), closes the group's annual Northeast Trade & Transportation Conference with his rapid-fire take on likely developments in international trade and transportation. This year was no different; the following are a few highlights from his March 16 presentation at CONECT's conference in Newport, R.I.:
- In its lame duck session, Congress will impose new fees or taxes on transportation and logistics activities to help pay for infrastructure improvements. Some legislators have proposed a manifest tax on domestic moves as a way to fund construction.
- As giant container ships begin arriving at U.S. ports, relationships with waterfront labor will become increasingly sensitive. A delegation from the West Coast's dockworkers union recently visited OOCL in Hong Kong to discuss how much automation would be in place at a new terminal in Long Beach that will serve the bigger vessels.
- Efforts to promote coastal shipping are gaining some attention, but Congress will have to revise regulations like the Jones Act that discourage domestic shipping if it is ever to be viable.
- Exports will sharply increase over the next few years, but carriers will have difficulty shifting equipment, infrastructure, and processes to accommodate exports after years of focusing on imports. Among the issues to be addressed: export commodities typically are much heavier than imported merchandise, and export origins often are located far from import destinations, making it costly and difficult for exporters to get containers.
- Importers can look forward to "pretty darn good rates" in the next few years as exports become the headhaul and carriers chase imports to fill what may soon become the backhaul.
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