Play at their own game
COMMENT: US political news has attracted quite a bit of attention of late. Much like a good reality show on TV striving for good ratings, the newsmakers have succeeded in creating a good - albeit maddening - formula for boosting viewer and readership, writes Barry Parker.
Like almost all maritime writers and pundits out there, I wrote my share of articles along the lines of “What might happen if Trump wins?” Well, after the closely watched 'First 100 days', many folks are throwing their hands up in sheer confusion about what, exactly, US policies are today?
Beach season is fast approaching here, but the words 'flip-flop' are being used more to describe administration policy than footwear for the sand. Depending on which group of talking heads you watch, you will get differing views and to be informed these days, multiple news sources are needed. Yet, across CNN, Fox News or whomever, what is emerging is that the Trump administration does have a sense of pragmatism, and locks on a target when trying to solve a problem.
So, what about infrastructure spending, a subject which is close to the port community? At first glance, the news is not great. The initial cut at the 2018 budget saw declines for the US Army Corps of Engineers, which dredges deep draft channels, and maintains all manner of waterway arteries. Also, US Port Security and TIGER grants are also likely to see proposed cuts.
In the bigger sphere, the Dow Jones stock market indicator reached stratospheric heights earlier in the year but has since backed off with various bruising defeats for the Administration and suggestions that Trump may not be able to achieve his desired investment goals.
But - and back to flip-flops - meetings with China went, apparently, very well, so trade wars (a big fear of those in maritime businesses) might now be whittled down to skirmishes. Co-operation with Europe, also previously an uncertainty, seems to now be a stated goal.
Indeed, this is not the time to be disheartened. The ports business has a very powerful message about its important role in buttressing the economic objectives of the Administration. It’s clear from all the flip-flops that the US will not move away from its trading partners. Quite the opposite in fact, as global economics - much like political objectives - are far more intertwined than ever before.
This is a time to keep pounding the message of how important and how connective ports are. The AAPA, which is a major advocate for the sector, has been doing just that and, with a steady message, the newly ascendant pragmatists in the Administration will hopefully be listening closely.
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