Free Trade

Senators John McCain and Mike Lee Introduce Bill to Exempt Puerto Rico From Jones Act

Although Donald Trump’s temporary waiver of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico has expired, longtime Jones Act critic Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, has teamed up with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, to call for a permanent exemption of Puerto Rico from the protectionist shipping statute.

Said McCain:

Now that the temporary Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico has expired, it is more important than ever for Congress to pass my bill to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from this archaic and burdensome law. Until we provide Puerto Rico with long-term relief, the Jones Act will continue to hinder much-needed efforts to help the people of Puerto Rico recover and rebuild from Hurricane Maria.

Added Lee:

The Jones Act is just another example of a federal regulation that harms American consumers, gives foreign corporations an edge over American businesses, and makes disaster response harder. It is far past time to repeal it.


The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, often referred to as the Jones Act, requires that all goods shipped between waterborne ports of the United States be carried by vessels built in the United States and owned and operated by Americans.

In July 2017, McCain introduced the Open America’s Waters Act of 2017, legislation that would repeal completely repeal the law that hinders trade and stifles economic activity.

At the time, he wrote:

I have long advocated the repeal of the Jones Act, an archaic and burdensome law that hinders free trade, stifles the economy, and ultimately harms consumers.

My legislation would eliminate this regulation, freeing American shippers from the requirement that they act against their own business interests. By allowing U.S. shippers to purchase affordable foreign-made carriers, this legislation would reduce shipping costs, make American farmers and businesses more competitive in the global marketplace, and bring down the cost of goods and services for American consumers.

The protectionist mentality embodied by the Jones Act directly contradicts the lessons we have learned about the benefits of a free and open market. Free trade expands economic growth, creates jobs, and lowers costs for consumers.

McCain first introduced legislation to eliminate the act in the Senate in 2010, and introduced an amendment in January 2016 that would waive Jones Act requirements for oil and gasoline tankers.

(Sen. John McCain speaking in November 2012 in Washington, after calling for an independent congressional investigation into the details surrounding the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.)


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