NMMA: Industry in ‘unique and unfortunate position’ in trade wars

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The National Marine Manufacturers Association provided a backdrop for the “state of play” of international trade for U.S. marine manufacturers in today’s Currents e-newsletter.

“For more than a year now, the recreational boating industry has been facing a range of compounding tariffs: anti-dumping and countervailing duties on aluminum sheet; Section 301 tariffs on hundreds of commonly used marine products and materials; and Section 232 tariffs on aluminum and steel, resulting in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. boats from our top export markets,” the newsletter story said.

The association called recent developments on trade negotiations “encouraging,” but added that “more work was needed to ensure the industry can grow.”

Nicole Vasilaros, NMMA senior vice president of government relations and legal affairs, told Trade Only Today that agreements such as the USMCA (U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement, or the new NAFTA) and negotiations with Japan, the European Union and the United Kingdom are happening, but there is “no clear path forward.”

Vasilaros said the U.S. boating industry is in an “unusual and unique” position due to the trade decisions made by the Trump administration and retaliatory tariffs that resulted from those decisions. “I’ve talked to other industries that might’ve been hit more with Section 301 tariffs or retaliatory tariffs from the E.U. or Canada,” Vasilaros said. “We’ve been hit from all sides.”

Vasilaros said she doesn’t expect movement on the USMCA before “late spring or early summer” because of delays caused by the recent partial government shutdown. The new NAFTA will need to be ratified by Congress, and Vasilaros predicts that will not happen unless some of the tariff issues are addressed.

“The USMCA isn’t tied to the other separate trade actions technically, but the two issues are now in the same political basket. Mexico and Canada are being impacted by our steel and aluminum tariffs, so that will need to be addressed before we see ratification of USMCA,” she said.

There also hasn’t been much “movement” on the E.U. retaliatory tariffs against U.S.-built boats, Vasilaros said. “The E.U. seems to be focusing more of its efforts these days on Brexit and resolving that,” she said.

According to a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office, the Trump administration’s tariffs will restrict U.S. GDP growth by an average of 0.1 percent each year for the next decade if they remain in place.

Vasilaros said NMMA is encouraging the administration and Congress to swiftly resolve the trade conflict and forge and ratify long-term, fair and free trade agreements, including USMCA. NMMA is also urging the administration to address Section 232 tariffs on Canada and Mexico and subsequent retaliation.

“Moving forward with retaliation intact would be a more bitter than sweet outcome for the industry,” Vasilaros said.

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