Looking Ahead to Early 2020 Infrastructure, Freight, & Trade while Celebrating 2019 Successes
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As AAPA 2.0 launches into our new year, we are excited about initiatives on our horizon. AAPA will continue to be here with breaking news, tireless advocacy, and policy expertise to TAKE THE HILL BY STORM! We hope you share our excitement and are ready to answer our Calls to Action.
The 2020 calendar is full of opportunities and challenges for port legislation.
First, let’s look at what’s coming down the channel in early 2020:
WRDA: Congress will immediately take up the ‘must pass’ reauthorizations of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and Surface Transportation (FAST Act). For ports, these major bills touch on waterside infrastructure and intermodal freight investments, respectively. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is jump-starting efforts on WRDA 2020. An initial hearing with Corps of Engineers leaders is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 9. The Committee is anticipated to call for Congressional Member WRDA requests later this month. The initial WRDA field hearing is tentatively planned for March in Los Angles. AAPA WRDA Requests
HMTF: In December, AAPA received feedback on our comments on the draft Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) language from the minority staff of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. AAPA’s comments were favorably addressed with the remaining item being the funding for Emerging Harbors and Great Lakes project funding to be 12% of HMT revenues, rather than the 10% in AAPA’s comments. AAPA notes that 12% is in line with recent appropriations. The EPW staff plans for a broader distribution of the draft HMT language in the Senate and House, first among Democrats, then Republicans in January. While this represents significant progress on the HMT funds distribution approach, specific wording for the funding mechanism remains unaddressed.
Freight Reauthorization: All players in intermodal freight will be affected by this year’s expiration of the FAST Act, first passed in 2015. This year Congress will draft its new surface transportation authorization, and AAPA will lead the charge for more considerable Federal investments in port infrastructure. Given the political realities of this being an election year, Congress may pass a temporary short-term reauthorization. Regardless of whether a new bill is signed into law or the FAST Act extended, AAPA will argue that freight transport starts and ends at its gateways, our nation's ports.
International Trade: The Trump Administration continues to whipsaw global markets and supply chains by threatening import tariffs while negotiating free trade agreements with many of those same trading partners. Slated to sign a Phase One agreement with China on historic commodity purchases in exchange for tariff rollbacks, the President says he will negotiate Phase Two soon. With auto tariffs still possible, the U.S. continues to negotiate further trade with Japan in the wake of 2019 openings in beef and other agricultural products. As billions of dollars in additional tariffs with Europe are possible, the U.S. is beginning trade negotiations with Europe and the U.K. The clear, bright spot for trade is the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), is slated to be taken up by the Senate after an impeachment trial. The USMCA is critical for more than half of all U.S. states, being that their most significant trading partner is Mexico or Canada.
AAPA finished 2019 with a bang. Let’s take a quick looking back at December:
Appropriations: Just before the New Year a full slate of the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations Legislation passed in Congress and was signed into law by President Trump, thus making significant available funds for port infrastructure development for both waterside and landside investments in multimodal transportation, ensuring the timely inspection of goods moving through our nation’s ports. This legislation takes the specter of a government shutdown off the table until the beginning of October. AAPA is currently developing appropriations priorities and funding requests for the Fiscal Year 2021.
Port Infrastructure Improvement Program: With the passage of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, the Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP) is now known as the Port and Intermodal Improvement Program and is authorized annually for $500 million. Passage of this language codifies many provisions under which the program was operating and calls for competitive grants to be made available to “assist in funding…projects to improve the safety, efficiency, or reliability of the movement of goods through ports and intermodal connections to ports,” consistent with the Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) PIDP grant solicitation earlier this year.
Finance for Port Operations and Trade: Along with year-end appropriations, Congress reauthorized two vital programs that support port operations and trade. First, Congress extended the national Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), which ensures a government backstop for risk insurance in essential sectors such as transportation. As a member of the Committee to Insure Against Terrorism, AAPA helped secure a seven-year authorization that increases the program’s attention to cybersecurity. Secondly, Congress reauthorized the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im), which American businesses use to expand trade abroad, especially in untapped markets. Look out for AAPA’s keynote speaker this month at its Shifting Trade conference in Tampa Bay: Kimberly Reed, Chair of Ex-Im, and one of the Administration’s top advisors on strategic trade policy.