The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) has written a letter to US trade representative ambassador Robert Lighthizer, urging him against potential trade sanctions.
Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the AAPA, argued that the sanctions could result in significant job losses in the port industry and other trade-related sectors, while triggering retaliation from US trading partners.
He said: “We urge you to take a comprehensive view of the millions of US jobs related to trade and ensure US seaport and other employment is not negatively impacted by trade actions.
“A 2016 AAPA survey showed that ports and their private sector partners plan to invest significantly in improving port infrastructure by spending US$155bn between 2016 and 2020.
“As businessmen, however, they are concerned about making these investments in an unstable trade environment. Eliminating that uncertainty is especially important as this administration seeks to find partners to build America’s infrastructure.”
He emphasised seaports’ role as economic engines, citing that seaport cargo activity generates nearly US$4.6tn in total annual economic activity and is responsible for US$321bn annually in federal, state and local tax revenues.
Nagle also claimed that for every US$1bn in exports shipped through US seaports, 15,000 jobs are created.
“We support and encourage steps focused on expanding exports rather than creating new import restrictions,” he stated.
He also highlighted the complexity of modern supply chains where finished products may often include several imported component parts.
“For example, U.S. cars could be manufactured with a significant degree of imports,” noted Nagle. “Reciprocal trade sanctions from our trading partners also can directly hurt U.S. exports, such as U.S. agricultural products.”
The letter cited research from the US Global Value Chain Coalition (USGVC) which found that one in five American jobs are linked to exports and imports of goods and services, and millions of those jobs are tied to the global value chain.
It also noted that 70% of the retail value of an imported garment is attributed to US sources.