International Trade Minister Ed Fast says he’s not worried about American efforts to reduce the volume of cargo moving through Canadian ports to destinations in the United States — including the introduction of a potential tariff of approximately $143 per container to offset a tax the U.S. imposes on containers off-loaded at U.S. ports.

“The most recent development is one that is in its infancy,” he told reporters. “All that’s happening is that the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission has been asked to do a study.”

Fast is being too optimistic. The study that counts has been done. It’s a report prepared for the U.S. Congress in January 2008. It lays out the issue of Canadian ports grabbing an increasing share of total Pacific Coast imports and of cargo ultimately destined for the U.S.

Last February, Richard Lidinsky, chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, told the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure that his agency is “carefully monitoring the diversion of U.S.-bound container cargo to Canadian ports.”

Rather than trying to compete for cargo by reducing costs for shippers and improving efficiency at U.S. ports, U.S. politicians are circling the protectionist wagons.

The proposal to penalize cargo from Canadian ports entering the U.S. by rail or road comes on the heels of President Barack Obama’s Buy American provisions in his American Jobs Act that would supply federal funding only to projects that use materials sourced and produced in the U.S.

The stakes in this diplomatic row are high. The success of Canada’s ports, particularly in Vancouver and Prince Rupert, are key to the nation’s economic well-being.

— The Vancouver Sun, British Columbia Oct. 4


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