Guam congressional candidates united in backing Jones Act reform

From left, Amanda Shelton, Michael San Nicolas, Ken Leon Guerrero and Ginger Cruz.
At a forum presented by the University of Guam, the candidates differed on many issues, but the Jones Act wasn’t one of them

Just as in Hawaii, the economic problems caused by the 1920 federal Jones Act are a pressing concern on Guam.

At a recent event presented by the University of Guam and broadcast by PBS Guam, four of the five candidates seeking Guam’s non-voting seat in the U.S. House of Representatives supported reform of the 1920 federal maritime law, which limits shipping competition between U.S. ports and causes higher prices.

The fifth candidate, incumbent James Moylan, a Republican, was invited but did not attend, according to KUAM News. If he had, he also would have supported reform, since he has signed on to several bills in Congress that would provide “Guam-level exemptions” from the protectionist “coastwise” law.

The subject came up at the 1:29 mark of a PBS Guam recording of the event when a student asked: “What would you do to rescind or revise the Jones Act?”

Democratic candidate Ginger Cruz answered first, saying “we could be able to change it [the Jones Act] if we … bring along the governor, we bring along the Guam Legislature, and we say we need to craft a new solution for Guam that looks more like a solution for an island that sits within Asia [and] that is at the fulcrum of what the Department of Defense is doing.”

Republican candidate Ken Leon Guerrero said that if elected, he would “work very closely” with the House and Senate delegations of “all the ocean states and islands and rivers” because the United States has more coastline, ports and navigable waterways “than any other continent on the planet Earth, but because of the Jones Act we are handicapping our nation.”

Third to respond was Guam’s previous congressional delegate, Democrat Michael San Nicolas, who said the way around the “roadblock” of maritime-related unions and the “over 40 different members of Congress who are going to step in and protect it because that’s an interest in their particular districts” is to “make it be about foreign policy.”

For example, he said: “Let’s say, ‘Hey, you know what, State Department? Why don’t you take on a whole new tool that will allow you to identify certain countries that you’re gonna give a certain Jones Act exemption, to limit it maybe to one ship or one company, but it’s a country that we’re going to tap into.’ … Then all of a sudden, we unlock the shipping constraints. We’re able to bring those goods in on international carriers. We’re not pushing up necessarily against the Jones Act. We’re turning it into a tool of foreign policy. That’s how we can creatively solve our problems.”

Finally, Amada Shelton, currently a Democratic senator in the Guam Legislature, said: “I don’t think that we have to think about repealing [the Jones Act] and throwing out the whole cake. We can take little bites that we know we need to change and update so that they’re beneficial to Guam today.”

If you would like to view the entire forum, which covered many issues besides the Jones Act, go here.

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