Jones Act concept
© Hafakot

It’s an old argument: does the Jones Act put ‘America First, or is it economically harmful to US states and companies? The Cato Institute believes the latter. It has published a blog post arguing that the Jones Act (which mandates the use of US-flagged, US-built vessels that are at least 75% US-owned and crewed for purposes of domestic transport) is damaging to US states.

For one thing, there are no Jones Act-compliant liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) carriers. Hawaii, New Hampshire and Puerto Rico must meet their propane needs by importing it from as far away as West Africa. The US is also a leading exporter of asphalt, but with no carriers, Hawaii must import it from abroad. Even when Jones Act vessels exist, they tend to be more expensive.

The writer concludes: “But just as the United States should not shun goods made abroad, neither should the US government effectively place its thumb on the scale in favour of imports through misguided policies such as the Jones Act. At the very least, Americans should have the option of buying US products, which is a current de facto impossibility for many given the Jones Act fleet’s decayed state. 

‘Truly putting “America first” should mean substantial reform or repeal of the Jones Act.” 

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