Port of New Orleans: Proposed tariffs could hurt its growth

Proposed new tariffs could impact Port of New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The Port of New Orleans’ expansion is threatened by a proposal to impose additional tariffs on Chinese products, including ship-to-shore cranes that are critical to the port’s operations, according to Port officials.

The port’s chief of staff, Michelle Ganon is scheduled to testify in Washington D.C. before the U.S. Trade Representative Tuesday (June 25), regarding the proposed tariffs on approximately $300 billion worth of Chinese products.

Port officials said they are especially concerned about a proposed 25 percent tariff on the importation of cranes that are used to load and unload large containers from cargo vessels.

Matt Gresham, the port’s Director of External Affairs said the cranes are important to growth.

"The big issue that we’re facing right now is we’re expanding, especially in our container business, and back in the spring we ordered two new gantry cranes -- the container cranes that you see on the skylines -- and those are about $13 million a-piece, and there is a proposed tariff in this next round of Chinese tariffs that covers ship-to-shore gantry cranes,” Gresham said.

According to the Ports Association of Louisiana, the proposed new tax could affect more than 500,000 jobs that are supported by Louisiana ports.

Gresham said it’s not only ports that are concerned about the proposed new tariffs.

“Retail associations, so on and so forth, because everybody depends upon those containers and that equipment to move the containers to get products to market,” he said. “And so you put 25 percent tariffs on a $13 million piece of equipment is pretty sizable, and that impacts the amount of growth that you can realize.”

This week, President Donald Trump is to meet with China’s leader about the ongoing trade war and Senator John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, said the U.S. must be tough on the Chinese.

“Somebody’s got to stand up to China, and that’s what we’re doing and it’s working,” Kennedy said.

While Kennedy said he is willing to work to help the Port of New Orleans, he added that China has been cheating in numerous ways, including stealing U.S. intellectual property.

“There are procedures that we can follow to try to get those cranes exempted, I can’t guarantee that the president will exempt them,” Kennedy said. “I would strongly encourage the port to try to look for a market to buy those cranes.”

The Port of New Orleans said the cranes do not involve intellectual property or innovation and they have not been manufactured in the U.S. for more than 20 years. Additionally, the port said it was negatively impacted by the tariffs the Trump administration put into place last year.

“What impacted us mostly was the steel and aluminum tariffs that went into effect first,” Gresham said. “Last year, we saw about a 30 percent decrease in the amount of steel that crossed the docks and about a 10 percent decrease in the amount of aluminum that crossed the docks. And so, that’s jobs for ILA, that’s jobs for truck drivers, longshoremen, and so forth.”

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