Biden signs bill to ease export backlogs

STORY: The bipartisan bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on a 369-42 vote earlier this week.

Biden said it would lower costs for American families.

"You want to know why prices are so high? Well, there are a number of reasons. Having to do with Putin's war in Ukraine. The disruption caused by the pandemic. But one of the factors affecting prices is this, nine major shipping companies consolidated into three alliances control the vast majority of ocean shipping in the world. And each of these nine is foreign owned. During the pandemic, these carriers increased their prices by as much as one thousand percent," Biden said.

"And I've said many times, tackling inflation is my number one priority. There's no solace that inflation is higher around the rest of the world, that gas prices are higher everywhere else in the world. It doesn't matter. It's much too high here and this bill is going to help bring down inflation, at least marginally," he added.

The legislation will boost the investigatory authority of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), the U.S. agency that oversees ocean shipping, and increase transparency of industry practices.

The bill will allow FMC to launch probes of the business practices of ocean common carriers, a term that broadly refers to cargo vessels operating on the high seas.

The FMC will also be able to apply enforcement measures, require ocean common carriers to report to the FMC "total import/export tonnage" each calendar quarter and would bar ocean carriers from unreasonably declining opportunities for U.S. exports under new rules to be determined by the FMC.

Congress has few tools to combat inflation, which hit 8.6% in the 12 months through May, according to the U.S. consumer price index.

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