Business writers have opined about what a Trump presidency might mean for trade and shipping, but they are not industry insiders. So the Marine Money Ship Finance Forum held in New York Wednesday provided some insights into President-elect Donald Trump’s thinking and possible actions on maritime issues.
Wilbur L. Ross Jr., a legendary investor in turnaround situations (including deep-sea tankers) and also an advisor to Trump, offered candid views at the forum of what the president-elect might do concerning the economy and maritime policies.
Ross, chairman and chief strategy officer at WL Ross & Co., discussed trade with an emphasis on energy policy. “I think in general, the major impact of what happened last night will be a stronger U.S. economy that will help drive the global engine, including for trade,” he said. “That’s got to be a good thing for shipping.”
On the Jones Act, Ross doesn’t think that Trump has thought much about it. “I don’t think that the Jones Act will be particularly affected by the other things that he’ll be doing.”
On potential trade policies, he highlighted the U.S. net trade deficit of approximately $500 billion balancing out with a surplus in the rest of the world, “That’s going to change,” Ross said.
On the subject of trade, he sought to dispel rumblings that Trump would recklessly slam trading partners with tariffs. “This is not going to be a blunderbuss like Smoot-Hawley [Tariff Act].” Formally the United States Tariff Act of 1930 that raised import duties to protect U.S. businesses and farmers, Smoot-Hawley raised the country’s already high tariff rates.
“What I believe that there will be instead, are negotiations on a country by country and product by product basis,” Ross said. Savvy negotiating with trade partners, and LNG exports to partners with whom the U.S. has a trade deficit were mentioned as one carrot in these negotiations.
Ross suggested that the Trump presidency would result in more energy production, and lower energy prices and less regulation, than would have been the case under a Hillary Clinton presidency.
Ross also discussed infrastructure improvement, which would be financed through tax credits. “Infrastructure is going to be a cornerstone of his presidency. That would build up demand for many products. I believe that he will be very stimulative for the economy.”
“What drives shipping? Consumption in the West, particularly in the U.S.”