By Benjamin Kwiecien
By Benjamin Kwiecien
When DP World, a United Arab Emirates firm, purchased the operations of several ports within the United States, there was a great uproar in Congress as politicians quarreled over the implications. While President Bush was very supportive of the deal, many house republicans opposed it on the grounds of national security. Since then, DP World has thrown in the towel, transferring ownership of operations to a U.S. entity.
These events have lead to the question of just how much ownership foreign companies should have of U.S. ports, if any.
Most economists in the United States are quick to emphasize the benefits of free markets. This includes free international trade, which is believed to strengthen the national economy.
If a country is seeking to do business with the United States, it is most likely seeking profit through the export and sale of goods produced locally. Groups responsible for the management and shipping of those goods are making a considerable investment-one that involves risk.
Selling ports internationally is a way for the United States to establish positive trade relations and inspire trust, and foreign investors are more likely to feel secure in their investment. In this way, investors are encouraged to shoulder more risk since they are able to oversee and manage operations on the receiving end.
At this point it is necessary to wonder what the controversy is about; from an economic perspective, the worst that could happen is that trade may inadvertently decrease or become less profitable, which is unlikely.
For many, there is the issue of “national security.” You never know what those foreigners are going to bring into your country.
This concern is shared by many students.
“It’s kind of dangerous considering what’s happened in the past. They might import illegal stuff-stuff that could be potentially hazardous,” said student Daniel Chung.
Robert Phaneuf shared this sentiment, but put it more bluntly.
“I think it’s stupid,” he said. “I think the United States should be in control of its own core systems.”
While it is valid to be concerned for the legality and safety of the operations, it is important to remember that the ports remain under the jurisdiction of U.S. law; no matter who owns and maintains the facilities, security will be handled locally.
In this light, it seems unfair to hastily condemn the sale of port operations abroad on the basis of suspicion. Considering that the United States spends hundreds of billions of dollars annually in military expenditures, it is more than capable of managing local security.