Bipartisan bill introduced to improve supply chain

On Balance with Leland Vittert

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — U.S. Reps. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) and Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) have introduced a bipartisan bill to Congress in an effort to combat the ongoing global supply chain crisis in the United States.

“The fact (is) that we’ve got a supply chain that’s breaking down,” Johnson said during an appearnce on “On Balance.” “When we focus on the facts of the situation and work together, our bill would make a big difference.”

The bill, called “Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021,” aims to support American exports by establishing reciprocal trade opportunities to help reduce the United States’ longstanding trade imbalance with China and other countries. The legislation would be the first major update of federal regulations for the global ocean shipping industry since 1998.

The urgent need for more shipping capacity comes amid soaring consumer demand for everything from cars to furniture and labor shortages in the rebounding economy, leading to major backups at ports and higher prices. The supply chain issues have caused a shortage of key equipment, namely shipping containers.

Garamendi says if this bill is passed, the economy could see changes immediately.

“You might see it right away because it’s a clear message to the international shipping companies and to the importers that they’ve got to settle this up,” Garamendi said.

According to the summary of the bill, the legislation would also prohibit shipping companies “from unreasonably declining export cargo bookings if the cargo can be loaded in a safe and timely manner.” Johnson said processors have resorted to paying much more to ship their products to other ports just so they can get their products on time.

“Anytime that they can get a higher price from anybody else, they will drop a contract with an American agricultural exporter, they’ll pay some ridiculously low amount of liquidated damages, like 100 bucks, and they will leave those American soybeans or that American pork sitting there on the port.”

Garamendi said the bill would put an end to foreign carriers such as China unfairly discriminating against American imports or exports.

“The Chinese exporters are willing to pay a whopping amount of money in order to get their hands on a container right now, but that container is going to get jammed up at the port when it gets to the United States.”

He said access to the American market is not a right but a privilege, and it should be treated as such. He also pointed out that there has to be equal attention to both the importers and the American exporters.

Both Garamendi and Johnson said the bill has gotten initial support throughout Congress.

“The support for this is extraordinarily broad. We have retailers who are on the receiving end of those imports … and we also have the agricultural interest,” Johnson said.

The Biden administration announced last month the Los Angeles port would soon begin operating 24 hours a day to help clear the backlog of ships.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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