Washington International Law Journal


On February 26, 1997, the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission imposed sanctions upon Japanese shipping carriers for allegedly restrictive port practices that existed in Japan. The Federal Maritime Commission imposed the sanctions under Section 19 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. Section 19 gives the Federal Maritime Commission authority to make rules and regulations where conditions unfavorable to shipping in the foreign trade exist. However, the Japanese Government does not control the port practices in Japan. The Japan Harbor Transportation Authority, a private conglomeration of labor unions, shippers, and other shipping entities in Japan, regulates port practices through collective-bargaining negotiations. By using Section 19 authority to force a change in Japanese port practices, the U.S. Government unilaterally interfered in internal labor-management relations within a foreign country. Such action is unfair, in light of the fact that such collective-bargaining agreements would be considered valid labor agreements in the United States. In the future, the United States should pursue other alternatives, such as the World Trade Organization's multilateral dispute resolution mechanism, to provide a fairer method of resolving such disputes.

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