Shipping Group Says Tackling Trade Curbs Can Lift Post-Covid GDP

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Governments must look again at eliminating practices that hinder trade if they want to fire an economic recovery once Covid-19 has been tackled, according to new research by a group representing many of the world’s shipowners.

Gross domestic product would jump by an average 1.1% for countries in the study if they cut tariffs on goods and removed punitive rules aimed at the maritime sector that make trade harder, the International Chamber of Shipping said in emailed research.

While goods tariffs often grab the headlines when it comes to international trade, rules that restrict shipping -- such as domestically flagged vessels being crewed by people from those countries -- often create far larger financial barriers, the report said.

“These types of non-tariff restrictions are up to five times worse than tariffs themselves and are costing national economies billions,” said Guy Platten, secretary general of the ICS, which represents more than 80% of the world’s merchant fleet.

The research was co-authored with professor Craig Van Grasstek of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and will be presented to a G20 taskforce.

Countries often have rules that reserve domestic shipping for domestic fleets. The U.S. has the so-called Jones Act, under which -- among other things -- U.S.-flagged ships must be built in the U.S., owned by U.S. companies, and have predominantly U.S. crews.

“Removing tariff and non-tariff barriers are quick and easy tools available to policymakers to increase levels of GDP, making this a win-win situation in catalyzing economic recovery from Covid-19,” said Esben Poulsson, chairman of the ICS.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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