Government officials and business leaders are using last week's report from the Federal Maritime Commission on U.S.-bound sea freight moving through Canadian and Mexican ports to support calls for reform of the Harbor Maintenance Tax and increased investment in U.S. ports.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said the report shows "as much as 26.7 percent of container volume in 2010 for the West Coast ports of Seattle, Tacoma, Portland and Oakland was 'at risk' of diverting to a Canadian port. The estimate was determined by assessing the vulnerability of U.S. bound containers to further incursions by Canada’s west coast ports by comparing data on containers bound for the Midwest.
“This report makes it clear that we can’t afford to stop investing in our West Coast ports to make sure we maintain our competitive edge in the 21st century and beyond,” Murray said. “An efficient freight policy is essential to attracting and retaining business from around the world, and this report underscores that we simply can’t afford to fall behind."
Meanwhile the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Maud Daudon, a former chief financial officer of the Port of Seattle, said the report "proves what the Puget Sound region has known for a long time – that the Harbor Maintenance Tax is creating an unbalanced playing field for ports in Canada and Mexico, and diverting business away from the ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett. The Puget Sound ports provide a competitive gateway for trade from Asia, and we need to ensure that national policy doesn’t unfairly hinder our region’s international competitiveness.”
“These findings provide momentum for our delegation to find a legislative solution that addresses this diversion, and we need to continue to work together to support them in their efforts," said Eric Schinfeld, president of the Washington Council on International Trade.
Maryse Durette, a spokesperson for Transport Canada, also noted the FMC’s report does not recommend any sort of levy on cargo moving to and from Canadian ports to the United States, and said "any call for a new levy at the border would be a barrier to trade, growth and ultimately jobs.
"The Canada-U.S. bilateral trading relationship is the largest and most important in the world, with well over one million dollars in trade crossing the shared border each minute. Goods must move as quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, which can only happen if businesses are free to choose the most efficient trade routes.
"The government of Canada is confident that U.S. decision-makers will continue to recognize that open trade increases North American competitiveness, which in turn benefits workers and consumers on both sides of the border," Durette said. - Chris Dupin