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Tanker Shipping & Trade

Shipowners' associations lobby WTO over trade protectionism

Tue 14 May 2019 by Craig Jallal, tankers and markets editor

Shipowners' associations lobby WTO over trade protectionism
Simon Bennett (ICS): efficiency of the shipping sector is dependent on a rules based trading system

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the Asian Shipowners’ Association (ASA) and the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) has expressed their concern over recent increases in protectionist measures to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva.

A joint delegation presented two position papers to the WTO, to express that the shipping sector has “fully committed to the preservation and promotion of free trade policies and principles around the world.”

The papers highlight that there has been a seven-fold increase in import-restrictive trade measures since 2017, which represents US$588.3Bn of additional costs to global trade.

Addressing the World Trade Organisation, ICS deputy secretary general Simon Bennett said “It is no coincidence that the massive growth in the global economy and thus the demand for maritime services that has been seen over the past 25 years has followed the WTO’s establishment in 1995.”

“Global maritime trade now exceeds 10Bn tonnes of cargo a year, but the efficiency of the shipping sector is dependent on a rules-based trading system. This requires the negotiation and adherence to multilateral trade agreements under the auspices of the WTO.”

“Recently, this success story has been the subject of unwarranted criticism and threat by certain governments, including the United States, undermining the WTO’s role as the regulator of international trade. There are no winners when you increase unilateral tariffs, which is why the best place to address disputes is at the WTO.”

According to the joint delegation, 137 new trade-restrictive measures were put in place between 2017 and 2018 which have added a significant burden and cost to the free movement of goods.

Speaking in the margins of the WTO negotiations on e-commerce, ECSA director of shipping & trade policy Lieselot Marinus, said “We are concerned at the growth of sector-specific protectionist measures, particularly cargo reservation whereby the carriage of international cargoes is restricted to national flag ships, undermining fair competition and a global level playing field.”

ASA secretary general Captain Ang Chin Eng added “The global shipping sector is calling on the global community and WTO member states to continue to support the WTO and its various functions, which help to govern and maintain the efficient operation of global trade in the best interests of all nations.”

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