Maersk Warns Against U.S. Protectionism

Maersk Containers And Ships At Port
The M/V Elly Maersk, an A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S container ship loaded with containers, departs the APM Terminal at the Port of Rotterdam, in The Netherlands. Photographer: Jock Fistick/Bloomberg

by Christian Wienberg (Bloomberg) A. P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, a Danish conglomerate that owns the world’s largest container shipping company, is voicing concern as a potential shift in U.S. policy threatens to reduce global trade.

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While Maersk assumes that no matter how the U.S. presidential election ends, it probably “won’t have an effect on the contracts we have and the employment exposure we have in the U.S.,” Trond Westlie, its chief financial officer, said any steps in a more protectionist direction would clearly hurt global economic growth.

 

“In general, trade barriers weaken global growth,” Westlie said in a phone interview on Friday. “Low trade barriers not only help trade growth, but also economic growth.”

 With real-estate-magnate-turned-politician Donald Trump blaming China and Mexico for American job losses, the tone in the U.S. presidential race is more anti-trade than it’s been in decades. Democratic party nominee Hillary Clinton is also toughening her stance on globalization, and has criticized the Trans-Pacific Partnership for failing to do enough to support American jobs. Trump has gone so far as to call the pact a “disaster” for the U.S.

Westlie declined to comment on either candidate or on any specific elements in their proposals as they vie for the presidency.

The World Bank has identified trade as a key means to fight poverty. But since the global financial crisis, cross-border commerce has slowed, and in a report this year, the World Trade Organization estimated that trade grew less than 3 percent for a fifth consecutive year. It cited the “threat of creeping protectionism as many governments continue to apply trade restrictions,” in an April 7 report. Trade growth will reach 3.6 percent next year, compared with a 5 percent average since 1990, according to the WTO.

Maersk transports about 15 percent of the manufactured goods that are sent across the globe each year, making it the world’s biggest container shipping line.

“Trade barriers should be reduced as much as possible,” Westlie said. “That opinion stands whether we’re talking about Brexit or the U.S., but also for tariffs in Africa or South America, for example. So it counts for all countries, not just individual ones.”

©2016 Bloomberg News