International Agreements

Bilateral Agreements

Bilateral Agreements include direct contacts with foreign governments or groups within foreign countries, on specific problems affecting the maritime industry.

Although the international market for maritime transportation services is relatively open, there are instances where governments impose anti-competitive barriers that restrict market access for U.S. maritime interests. Many of these restrictions can be addressed through direct negotiation, relying on statutes administered by the Federal Maritime Commission to impose trade remedies, if necessary. In select instances it may be necessary to negotiate bilateral agreements to open markets. Such agreements may also be necessary with non-market economies. The benefits of taking action against restrictions on U.S. maritime companies’ access to foreign transportation markets are clear. Such restrictions add to costs, limit revenues, impede efficient operations and negatively impact the profitability of the U.S. maritime industry in international trade. Enhancing the competitiveness of U.S. transport providers and manufacturers in the global marketplace is a key outcome of the Department’s Global Connectivity strategic goal.

The United States has concluded bilateral maritime agreements only in rare instances where circumstances warrant such action. In addition, we monitor bilateral maritime and trade agreements of other countries to ensure that they do not impair U.S. carriers’ market access. The few U.S. maritime agreements that are in effect are with Brazil, China, and Russia. The United States and Japan carried out an exchange of letters on port services in November 1997 that had the effect of an agreement.

Brazil: The U.S.-Brazil Maritime Agreement, which was signed by the Secretary Mineta and the Brazilian Ambassador Roberto Abdenur in Washington on September 30, 2005, represents a succession of bilateral maritime agreements dating to the 1970s. The heart of the agreement is to ensure equal access for each country’s national-flag carriers to the other country’s government-controlled cargo. Brazil has historically designated a large share of its foreign trade in commercial goods to be government cargoes.

China: A new U.S.-China Maritime Agreement was signed on December 8, 2003 by Secretary Mineta and Minister of Communications Zhang and has a five-year term and is extended automatically for successive one-year periods. The agreement addresses U.S. carriers’ rights to open branch offices throughout China and assures China of continued open access to U.S. markets.

Japan: In November 1997, the United States and Japan carried out an exchange of letters on port services that had the effect of an agreement. The consultations that have resulted have enabled a forum for exchanging views on issues of mutual interest and potential areas of cooperation.

Russia: On June 20, 2001, the United States and Russia signed a new bilateral maritime agreement. The agreement represents the evolution to a free-market model of maritime relations between the two countries, relatively free of government intervention. The first bilateral maritime agreements with the former Soviet Union were negotiated in the 1970s. Under the new arrangement consultations have been held on a new agreement to discuss a range of issues affecting maritime transport.

Vietnam: On March 15, 2007, the United States and Vietnam concluded an agreement that opened the opportunity for US carriers to open wholly-owned subsidiaries in Vietnam. Vietnamese shipping entities are government owned and have had a monopoly position in operating in Vietnam’s growing maritime trades.

Other Bilateral Relations and Consultations: