President Joe Biden is taking on the concentrated market power of ocean shipping companies, although officials at the agency overseeing the industry indicated they lack any evidence of wrongdoing.
The president announced a “crackdown” on ocean carriers “overcharging American businesses and consumers” in his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening. The Federal Maritime Commission will join with the Department of Justice in the new initiative to push for competition in ocean freight transportation.
“My top priority is getting prices under control,” Biden said.
The World Shipping Council pushed back on Wednesday, saying Biden’s claims are not indicative of the industry or market dynamics.
“The truth is that with demand for ocean transportation services into the U.S. at record levels, market dynamics are influencing prices – not carrier alliances,” said John Butler, president and CEO of the World Shipping Council, in a statement.
So far, the FMC and Justice Department have found no evidence of anything wrongdoing, Bloomberg reported.
Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., who recently introduced the bipartisan Ocean Shipping Antitrust Enforcement Act, echoed Biden’s remarks. The legislation, Costa said in a release, removes exemptions for foreign shipping carriers from federal antitrust laws and addresses unfair practices that harm American businesses.
“I am committed to working with the Biden administration to ensure fair trade practices in the ocean carrier industry, which is a crucial step in lowering prices for American consumers and creating a level playing field for American exporters,” Costa said in the release.
Butler claims the proposal “would upend the global transportation system, reducing service for U.S. importers and exporters and raising costs for American consumers and businesses.”
“We urge the administration and Congress to enact measures that will relieve the current congestion and set America’s supply chain up for long-term success,” he said.
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