Bureau of Economic Analysis to include Puerto Rico data


Officials seek authorization to transfer international cargo in island airports

SAN JUAN — While in Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed an agreement Tuesday with the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) to be able to include Puerto Rico accounts in national economic statistics.

The governor also announced that his administration requested authorization from the U.S. Department of Transportation to transfer international cargo in Puerto Rico.

“These efforts are important for the island’s economic development,” the governor said in a statement. “The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis will now be the entity in charge of preparing the gross domestic product (GDP) reports, which include the 50 states and other U.S. territories. We hope that, through this agreement, Puerto Rico will take part in the national economy.”

Rosselló, who was accompanied by BEA Director Brian Moyer and Invest Puerto Rico Chief Executive Officer Rodrick Miller, stressed that one of the benefits of the agreement is that more and better data will be collected on Puerto Rico’s economic behavior and its response to fiscal and economic development policies, including the effects of disaster recovery programs.

“The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis will improve Puerto Rico’s competitiveness as an investment jurisdiction providing greater confidence to investors,” said Puerto Rico’s Economic Development secretary, Manuel Laboy.

The Rosselló administration is also making efforts—through the Economic Development & Commerce Department (DDEC by its Spanish acronym) and spearheaded by Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González—to be able to transfer international cargo at Puerto Rico airports.

Authorization to do so would result in the creation of jobs, greater fuel sales, attract new airlines and boost secondary markets, officials said. 

The permit was requested for all existing international airports including Aguadilla, Carolina and Ponce.

“There are a lot of airplanes that fly over our airspace, but due to existing restrictions, these don’t use the island as a stop,” Laboy said, adding that Puerto Rico has “a strategic geographic position to benefit from the flights coming not only from Latin America, but also from Africa and its regions.”

The Economic Development chief further noted that “the government needs to develop new economic sectors that don’t depend as much on incentives and economic assistance and, through the authorization to transfer domestic and international cargo, we have a great opportunity.”

Regarding the BEA agreement, Congresswoman González said Washington lawmakers “have been working tirelessly on this issue through H.R. 1405, known as the Puerto Rico Data Collection Equality Act, a measure that will help to adequately address the needs of the 3.2 million American citizens living in the island by simply requiring federal statistics agencies to treat us equally, a problem that should have been taken care of long ago.”

González added that she reintroduced the Puerto Rico Air Cargo Industry Empowerment Act on April 25, saying the Stevens Amendment has been positive for the Anchorage community in Alaska, which Laboy also used as an example of the potential gains for Puerto Rico if air cabotage restrictions were eliminated. Some 20,000 jobs were created in the Alaska airport and related activities.

Northwest Airlines Cargo President Jim Friedel said that a new foreign flight a day generates approximately 90 additional jobs in Alaska. 

According to a study carried out by Puerto Rico-based think tank Estudios Técnicos, a lifting of cabotage restrictions could result, conservatively, in some 10 new flights to the island a day, creating up to 900 new jobs and a payroll increase of about $30 million.

Puerto Rico House to request Jones Act exemption

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Rep. José Aponte Hernández will ask the new U.S. Congress to study a request made this weekend by the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL), that Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Alaska be permanently exempted from the cabotage law known as the Jones Act.

The NHCSL is a nonpartisan, nonprofit that represents more than 410 Hispanic legislators and works on implementing policies that help Hispanics.

It held its 16th National Summit of Hispanic State Legislators Dec. 6-8 in San Diego, Calif. The event included senior elected officials, state legislators, members of Congress, community advocates and business people to address some of the issues that affect Latino voters.

The lawmaker said that Hispanic state legislators passed a resolution Saturday urging each state legislature, including that of territories such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to introduce legislation in favor of the elimination of federal cabotage laws, regulated through the Jones Act of 1920. The initiative also asks President Donald Trump to repeal it.

Under the Jones Act, all maritime cargo between the continental United States and Puerto Rico must be carried out on U.S.-built, -owned, -flagged and -crewed, he explained.

Aponte Hernández, who is chairman of the Committee on Federal, International and Status Relations, said he will introduce a resolution shortly in line with what was agreed to at the NHCSL summit.

“The imposition of the Jones Act on Puerto Rico has a devastating effect on the price paid to bring goods such as basic necessities, food and even fuel. In Puerto Rico, more is paid due to this law, which dates back to the beginning of the past century. That is why we support a permanent waiver of Jones Act statutes, and we will ask the new Congress, which is sworn in January, to take this request into consideration,” Aponte Hernández said in a statement.

“Puerto Rico needs this window of opportunity, particularly now with the energy transformation process we are doing. The cost of natural gas would drop dramatically, for example, if we had a Jones Act waiver. The same is true of other products related to this process. That is why we joined the request and asked President Trump to evaluate it expeditiously,” the former House speaker added.

NHCSL summit attendees participated in panels to discuss other issues as well, such as online privacy, the opioid crisis, cannabis decriminalization and policy, consumer trends and the future of retail, energy and climate change, gun policy, the U.S. leadership role in the Middle East, and sickle cells.

Scientists and other subject matter experts addressed participants, who also heard from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sens. Marco Rubio and Kamala Harris via separate video messages.

–Cybernews contributed to this report.