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Between 1990 and 2004, the value of U.S. international trade increased from $889 billion to nearly $2.2 trillion. Roughly two-thirds of this total value of trade passed through U.S. ports to and from countries other than Canada and Mexico. The top-25 U.S. ports accounted for 98 percent of all cargo container shipments.
Given universal recognition that that cargo containers may be used to smuggle chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons, it is understandable that "assuring container security" has become a priority to governments and the international trade community alike to prevent incidents of mass destruction and major disruptions to the world economy. Promoting both security and trade facilitation requires an examination of global supply chains. Cargo container movements are characterized by complex interactions among multiple actors, industries, regulatory agencies, modes of transportation, operating systems, and legal frameworks.
The research for this report, conducted for the Congressional Research Service of the U.S. Congress by the LBJ School of Public Affairs, examines the various institutional, legal, and policy arrangements that have been put into place in the U.S. and abroad (Brazil, France, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Netherlands, and South Africa) to enhance worldwide port and supply-chain security. The involvement of international organizations and private-sector firms and associations in maritime security is also investigated.
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