The boating industry just became one of the countless business segments to benefit from a pair of deals a long time in the making.
First, there was a breakthrough on steel and aluminum duties. The United States and the European Union agreed during the G20 Heads of State and Government Summit to suspend Section 232 Tariffs, and the E.U.’s retaliatory tariffs. At the end of the same week, we saw the passage of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill — the largest U.S. public works measure since the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, which created the interstate system.
Regarding the tariffs, we owe a collective debt of gratitude to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. The trade group’s tireless crusade to advocate for the removal of the damaging tariffs — and to suspend retaliatory efforts that would have doubled on American boats headed to the E.U. as of Dec. 1 — will have a significant, positive impact for years to come.
“America’s boatbuilders were collateral damage of this tit-for-tat trade conflict for more than three years,” says NMMA president Frank Hugelmeyer. “This resolution allows American companies to reclaim billions in lost and future E.U. market share caused by the disastrous 25 percent tariffs on American-made boats exported to the E.U.”
Following the summit, both the U.S. Department of Commerce and the European Commission stated that tariffs would be completely lifted Jan. 1.
The long-time-in-the-making infrastructure bill — the greatest public-works funding measure since before the Dodgers baseball team left Brooklyn in 1957 — is poised to have an outsized impact on our industry in other ways. During the course of eight years, billions of dollars will support the completion of backlogged projects by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard and the Marine Highway Program. All of these projects will significantly expand boaters’ and anglers’ access to navigable waters.
Both bills take aim at environmental concerns, as well. Following the G20 summit, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo said the agreement’s enhanced environmental standards would keep the market from being flooded with Chinese-produced aluminum and steel.
“This deal creates a framework through which the U.S. and E.U. agree to take carbon intensity into account in future negotiations,” Raimondo says. “The U.S. and the E.U. both produce steel and aluminum that is ‘cleaner’ than what is produced in much of the world, [and] the lack of environmental standards in places like China is part of what drives down their costs, and it’s a major contributor to climate change.”
The infrastructure bill also will combat climate change, with things like investments in natural infrastructure. About $7 billion will fund Corps of Engineers projects that address storm damage reduction, flood control, coastal storm risk management, natural- disaster damage, and waterways that need bolstering. Billions more will go toward things such as the restoration of coastal communities, the fight against invasive species, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program — all of which directly benefit the boating and fishing industries.
The bill also reauthorizes the $650 million per annum Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, the you-pay-you-benefit program that provides a wellspring of funding for conservation projects around the country. Both agreements provide enormous benefits to the marine industry. At times, it seemed as if neither deal would come to pass, with the parties behaving like Jupiter’s myriad orbiting moons, going from running in lockstep to being separated by what looked like interstellar space. But ultimately, all parties saw that in order to move forward, we have to find middle ground.
As we close out the year amid continued supply chain issues that promise to linger and impact our lives and livelihoods — and hopefully, finally putting the Covid-19 pandemic in our wake — I think we’ll look back on both deals as two shining beacons at the end of the tunnel.
This article was originally published in the December 2021 issue.