Biden should be a shipping-friendly president
From a business perspective, even when it comes to shipping-specific concerns, there are no obvious reasons for the industry to fear Biden's presidential victory
While Donald Trump regarded trade negotiations as a zero-sum game, his successor has a better understanding of free markets and a more pragmatic approach to foreign policy, which could see him dial back heavy-handed sanctions
AMERICA’S choice of president is so important, the old European witticism runs, that everyone in the world ought to get a vote.
But that isn’t how these things work, and the only Lloyd’s List readers able to have their say last week were those who are US citizens.
The verdict of the electorate, at least, was unambiguous.
Some 74m people opted for the Democrats’ Joe Biden, with only 70m favouring a second term for Republican incumbent Donald Trump.
The choice between the candidates’ wider political agendas is a matter of individual conscience, of course, and given the outcome confirmed at the weekend, liberals will already be in celebration mode.
But if we narrow the focus down to a business perspective, or even shipping-specific concerns, there are no obvious reasons for conservatives to fear a President Biden administration.
The rap sheet against Trump is voluminous, not least on account of his overt bonhomie towards elements in US society that should be encouraged to limit use of white bedsheets to the bedroom.
But his enactment of tax cuts and deregulation did allow many businesses, especially small businesses, to flourish.
Stimulus spending on a grand scale ripped up prevalent economic orthodoxy, but sustained growth in personal consumption to a degree that has redounded to the benefit of container trades.
You decide whether Trump succeeded in his declared aim to Make America Great Again, but he helped make America a Net Oil Exporter Again, even if it was his predecessor President Obama who actually lifted the crude oil export ban in 2015, for the first time since the 1940s, which was no uncertain boon for tanker owners.
Even his commitment to the Jones Act was proven to be as unimpeachable as he himself turned out to be.
But there were gargantuan lacunae too, not least Trump’s persistent conceptualisation of trade as a zero-sum game.
Biden has the better understanding of free markets and free trade, both of which work best when there is confidence that democracy will unfold the way the textbooks say it should.
His more pragmatic approach to foreign policy will be welcomed by an industry in which owners, with the obvious exception of the maverick few, value predictability.
US sanctions are frequently extraterritorial in remit, adding bite to the joke with which we opened. Such heavy-handedness is perceived by the rest of the planet as unjust.
The real prospect of resumed talks with Tehran and Caracas will be positive news for shipowners who wish to trade legitimately with those nations, not to mention the P&I clubs and other marine insurers that are currently forbidden from covering vessels calling in Iran.
A reduction in posturing in negotiations with China will also be welcomed by those in the industry who have had to live with the consequences of Trump’s flirtation with protectionism, which have been sufficiently extensive to make a communist government appear the better advocate of Adam Smith.
Even a more coherent approach to coronavirus, making good Trump’s most visible single failing, will boost prospects of a rapid resumption of economic normality.
While Biden may not offer a panacea for all that ails shipping, or even any to have particular interest in our fate, he should be shipping-friendly.