- The Washington Times - Friday, March 3, 2006

From combined dispatches

Britain’s Court of Appeal yesterday agreed to hear a Miami company’s objection to the sale of a British shipping company and its U.S. port operations to Dubai’s state-owned DP World — a move that puts the deal on hold.

Miami-based Eller & Co. says its business could be harmed by U.S. concerns over a United Arab Emirates company controlling significant operations at six major U.S. seaports. Britain’s Court of Appeal will hear its petition for an appeal on Monday.

If the right to appeal is granted, the higher court will immediately hear the case.

“We don’t take the decision to appeal lightly,” Mr. Eller said in a statement issued in London. “However, we are deeply concerned for the future of our business and the livelihood of thousands of our staff and contractors and we will do everything in our power to secure their future.”

The move came as Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said the U.S. must uphold the ports deal or risk damaging its position as an advocate of free trade.

“It’s awfully important that we come out the right way on this,” Mr. Snow said yesterday. “Anything that we do that diminishes our role as a leader on trade liberalization and open markets undercuts our moral authority in the world to push for those very things in other places.”

Mr. Snow has focused on convincing trade partners India, China and Brazil to open up capital markets, liberalize currency systems and modernize their financial markets to allow more trade and direct investment. Mr. Snow visited all three countries in the second half of last year.

U.S. lawmakers are considering legislation to slow or block the $6.8 billion sale of Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. to DP World, citing national security concerns. DP World is controlled by the emirate of Dubai, which has had ties to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Any such move could make it harder for the U.S. to convince reluctant nations to open up to investment, Mr. Snow said.

“American business needs access to the rest of the world,” Mr. Snow said. “If we’re going to have access to the rest of the world on good terms, we’ve got to keep the U.S. open.”

DP World has attempted to defuse some of the tension by submitting itself to a second 45-day investigation by the U.S. government, despite already receiving regulatory approval for the deal. P&O; runs shipping terminals in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

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