Members of Congress Want Natural Gas Exported to China to Travel on U.S. Ships

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin arrived in China on Thursday for continued trade talks.

There’s a lot the two nations are expected to discuss this time around – intellectual property, state-owned enterprises, forced technology transfers – and while it remains unclear whether any meaningful progress will be made, it does appear the two nations are inching toward a deal.

Meanwhile, two lawmakers are turning their attention to an issue that hasn’t been getting a lot of press, but could have big implications for U.S. job growth and competitiveness when a deal is finally reached.

Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) wrote to Lighthizer, Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross this week asking the three to ensure that U.S.-flagged and crewed vessels “play a key role” in the transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to China.

There’s growing speculation that China will agree to purchase $18 billion worth of natural gas from the United States as part of the eventual U.S.-China trade agreement. While that is good news for the domestic natural gas industry, Garamendi and Wicker also point out that unless U.S. officials step in, those LNG exports will “almost certainly be on foreign-flag vessels operated by foreign crews.”

The U.S.-flag international fleet has declined by nearly 60 percent since 1991 to just 80 vessels. Considering the fleet’s importance to U.S. national and economic security, this certainly does seem like something that needs to be addressed.

And as Garamendi and Wicker point out, growing LNG exports provide a big opportunity to grow the fleet, strengthen America’s maritime security and create thousands of new jobs in the process.

“America is on pace to be the third largest producer of LNG exports by 2020,” Garamendi said in a statement. “If we don’t use these trade negotiations to require our LNG exports to ship on U.S. vessels, the United States will continue exporting its LNG on foreign-flagged ships… These negotiations give us the opportunity to reenergize American shipyards.”

Echoed Wicker: “The United States should seize every opportunity to bolster our domestic maritime industry.”

Along with their letter, the bipartisan duo also plan to introduce the Energizing American Shipbuilding Act. The legislation, which the pair also put forth last Congress, would guarantee that starting in 2025, fixed percentages of all LNG and crude oil exports will travel on U.S.-built, crewed and flagged vessels.

Thousands of new jobs would be created for the domestic maritime industry, Garamendi and Wicker say. The legislation also would require exporters to “provide training opportunities for American mariners in preparation for these future job opportunities,” they write.


Reposted from the AAM