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Studies: U.S. shipping law strangling Puerto Rico

Staff writer |
A U.S. federal law that bans foreign vessels from engaging in coastwise shipping within U.S. territory adversely affects Puerto Rico's troubled economy, according to studies cited by the island's Senate.




"Puerto Rico is suffocating" with this law, the chairwoman of the Senate of Puerto Rico's Committee on Civil Rights, Citizen Participation and Social Economy, Rossana Lopez, said.

The economic woes confronting this U.S. commonwealth, now in its eighth year of recession and double-digit unemployment, have prompted a fresh look at a law seen as hindering an economic recovery. The lawmaker with the governing, center-left PPD party said the law slows the island's economic development by impeding competition and keeping prices high.

Ms. Lopez said experts at a meeting during this month's Forum on Marine Transportation and Logistics, organized by the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, backed up her assessment.

"It's suffocating us. Elimination of the law on cabotage (sea- or airborne transport of goods of passengers within a country) would create revenue that would help us," the senator said, referring to a dozen studies highlighted during that meeting.

One of the studies, which dates to 1999 and was prepared by the United States International Trade Commission, calculated that shipping costs would fall by more than 20 percent if the cabotage laws were repealed.


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