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Port CEO gives State of the Port address, talks about Trump's free-trade stance

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

The Port of New Orleans likes its activity level.

"The container numbers that are up for two years in a row, three years in a row, the cruise ship numbers are record numbers, growing all the time. It’s topped a half-million TEU’s or 20-foot equivalent units handled at the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal for the second year in a row,” according to Port CEO Gary LaGrange.

In his annual State of the Port address Wednesday afternoon, LaGrange talked of expectations from the incoming president, Donald Trump.

"This administration in all likelihood will be a very, very pro-business administration, less regulations, very pro, and a huge proponent to infrastructure development,” LaGrange stated.

Ports by their very nature favor free trade, and Trump has said free trade is good when it is fair trade. He believes too many American jobs have disappeared because of poor trade deals, and he has repeatedly slammed NAFTA, the North-American Free Trade Agreement. Trump has promised to reverse trade policies he feels have siphoned away U.S. jobs.

"By having a raw material or a raw product shipped out and a product shipped back in on the import side, it really bolstered the ports of America and put a lot of people to work," LaGrange said. "And the longshoremen jobs, like the ILA, the International Longshoremen, and a lot of other areas, truck drivers and people who work on trains, warehousemen, the crews on the ship, tugboat operators - all of these people's jobs proliferated."

Another Republican who inhabited the White House this week talked about NAFTA’s impact.

"I would urge people to go down to the border now and see how transformed the border is. There is a thriving middle class on both sides of the Rio Grande River. It's in our interests as a nation that that be the case. There have been 30 million new jobs since NAFTA had been created,” said former President George W. Bush.

Trump during the campaign also blasted TPP.

"In the case of TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it happened to be 16 or 18 countries at one time that might have been a little robust, so taking it down to a one-on-one level in itself is complicated enough, and having it expand to so many might be complicated,” LaGrange stated.

Trade policies aside, LaGrange likes the port’s position for the future.

'We actually are not a one- or two-dimensional port, but a six-dimensional port, and in any economic times be they good or bad, you've got something there,” said LaGrange.

Port officials said almost $40 million was invested last year geared toward greater efficiency and capacity at the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal, and the port is positioned to invest more than $25 million to expand container capacity to nearly one million TECs in coming years.

In March, the port’s multi-million Mississippi River Intermodal Terminal opened.

The port is working on a new master plan that is set to be completed in 2017.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

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