Future of US boat exports in question

CHICAGO, Ill. – The decision by President Bush whether to remove steel import tariffs may determine whether the U.S. marine industry continues to export boats to Europe, its largest export market.

On Thursday, Bush said he is reviewing “the extent to which the [steel] industry has been restructured,” which will determine his decision, according to Reuters.

While Reuters reported that the president said he would make the decision “within a reasonable period of time,” U.S. Rep. Joseph Knollenberg told the news agency that he expected Bush to make a decision before December 10.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled earlier this month that the steel tariffs violate international trade laws, and the European Union has stated it plans to retaliate by mid-December with a 30-percent tariff on US exports, which may include recreational boats.

Boats to be included?

Whether or not recreational boats are included in the retaliatory tariff remains to be seen, according to Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA).

Dammrich said in an interview today that the list of products to receive tariffs is longer that the total value of retaliatory tariffs allowed by the WTO. As a result, boats may be dropped from the list.

There are no guarantees, however, and NMMA continues to ask its members that export to Europe to contact the White House via phone, e-mail or mail to urge the president to remove the steel tariffs.

If Bush does not remove the steel tariffs and boats are included in the retaliatory tariffs, Dammrich said he would expect the 30-percent tariff to “eliminate [boat] exports” to Europe as U.S. product would be uncompetitive.

For some boat builders, this could mean the loss of 15 percent or more of their business. Those companies potentially impacted by the tariff would include builders of powerboats, sailboats, inflatables, canoes and dinghies. Boats under 7.5 metres in length (approximately 24 feet) have been excluded because the EU has more than a 30-percent dependency on imports of these products.

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