Opinion: St. Lawrence Seaway essential to U.S. economy

September 25, 2019The Detroit News | By Elaine Chao

The St. Lawrence Seaway is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year by continuing to play a big part in America’s economy. More than 227,000 jobs and $35 billion in economic activity are supported by movement of cargoes on the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence Seaway System.

The Great Lakes–Seaway System stretches from Duluth, Minnesota, to the Atlantic Ocean, allowing safe and economical transport of grain, iron ore, steel and other products to markets throughout the United States, Canada, and the world. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2018, the region accounted for 15.8 % of U.S. trade in dollar value.

The St. Lawrence Seaway facilitates that trade by lowering transport costs. Each ship passing through carries as much cargo as 963 tractor-trailer trucks, and does so with seven times their fuel efficiency.

This saves $3.6 billion per year in transportation costs, reduces highway congestion and greatly reduces pollution. It is a factor in the creation of 6 million jobs since President Donald Trump’s election.

Cost and safety are being further improved by the seaway. It is maintaining and improving its facilities under the Asset Renewal Program. Of particular note is the innovative hands-free mooring system.

This system uses mechanical gripping machines to handle ships passing through the locks. This greatly speeds up the slow and sometimes dangerous old process of using ropes or cables to moor the ships. The result is greatly improved safety and much faster passage of vessels through the lock system.

The amount of tonnage shipped through the St. Lawrence Seaway reflects the strength of America’s economy. Under this administration, total tonnage on the St. Lawrence Seaway surpassed 5-, 10- and 15-year averages, making the 2018 shipping season the best in over a decade.

Further growth is possible.

In addition to the president’s pro-growth economic and regulatory policies, a new trade agreement has been negotiated between the United States, Canada and Mexico. This is a much-needed overhaul of the 25-year-old North American Free Trade agreement. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is a comprehensive, 21st century agreement with two of our most critical trade partners.

The bipartisan USMCA agreement is addressing longstanding trade imbalances by granting American businesses across all sectors of our economy greater freedom to sell their goods and services throughout North America. The agreement not only keeps most tariffs between the three countries at zero, it also does more than any prior agreement to eliminate non-tariff barriers and unfair subsidies. This will benefit America’s farmers, ranchers, workers and employers.

With these investments, we look forward to another successful navigation season with a growing amount of commerce passing through the dependable and safe St. Lawrence Seaway.

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