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WASHINGTON – Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Open America’s Water Act of 2019 Thursday, a bill which would repeal the Jones Act and allow all qualified vessels to engage in domestic trade between U.S. ports.

“Restricting trade between U.S. ports is a huge loss for American consumers and producers. It is long past time to repeal the Jones Act entirely so that Alaskans, Hawaiians, and Puerto Ricans aren’t forced to pay higher prices for imported goods—and so they rapidly receive the help they need in the wake of natural disasters.”

In 1920, Congress passed the Merchant Marine Act (more widely known as the Jones Act), which requires all goods transported by water between U.S. ports to be carried on a vessel constructed in the U.S., registered in the U.S., owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed primarily by U.S. citizens.

The Cato Institute estimates that after accounting for the inflated costs of transportation and infrastructure, the forgone wages and output, the lost domestic and foreign business revenue, and the monetized environmental toll the annual cost of the Jones Act is in the tens of billions of dollars. And that figure doesn’t even include the annual administration and oversight costs of the law.