Matthew J. Thomas
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Matthew J. Thomas has more than twenty years of experience in maritime and international trade regulation and government affairs, representing leading shipowners, energy and trading companies, ports, P&I clubs, shipyards, and marine terminal operators.
Mr. Thomas works extensively in the areas of trade sanctions and export controls, particularly with fast-moving Iran policies and related banking and insurance matters. His OFAC sanctions work has included issues as diverse as delisting blocked parties, licensing for Cuban oil spill recovery services, Libyan rebels’ supplies, and piracy ransom payments.
He also represents major energy and trading companies with regard to export controls, customs, and maritime regulation for U.S. crude and petroleum products. In addition, he acts as regulatory counsel for leading container carriers and marine terminal operating companies, and guides global offshore energy companies in maritime and export compliance matters.
Throughout his career, Mr. Thomas has built strong relationships with U.S. government officials, trade associations, and the local legal and lobbying community. He guides international businesses in their dealings with the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, Transportation, as well as independent regulatory agencies and Congress.
He has represented leading carriers, terminals, and logistics providers in regulatory proceedings before the Federal Maritime Commission (“FMC”), where he formerly served as the Assistant General Counsel for International Affairs. During his government tenure, he was responsible for the FMC’s relations with foreign shipping regulators and multilateral bodies, such as the European Union (“EU”), World Trade Organization (“WTO”), and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”), providing insight and contacts in trade diplomatic circles.
In addition to his professional experience in maritime and international trade, Mr. Thomas has also served as a federal lobbyist and led successful lobbying efforts on the behalf of local governments, advising on federal affairs and managing relations with congressional offices.
Maritime and International Transport Sector
- Advised and represented a broad range of shipping and commodities clients in connection with U.S. trade sanctions (on Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Syria, North Korea, and others).
- Represented container terminals in connection with FMC regulatory proceedings, assessing lease rights, public-private partnerships, and other programs.
- Advised major energy and commodity companies on petroleum export, trade, and blending regulatory matters.
- Advised public ports on innovative programs to reduce harmful air emissions.
- Represented shipping lines in connection with federal regulatory matters, compliance planning and training, lobbying, and responding to investigations, including practice before the FMC, U.S. Coast Guard, Maritime Administration, Customs and Border Protection, and other agencies.
- Advised and represented offshore oil & gas operators regarding maritime regulatory and citizenship requirements, export controls, anti-bribery laws, and other requirements.
- Advised international lenders and investment funds on the liability, citizenship, regulatory compliance, and vessel documentation aspects of maritime financing transactions.
- Represented a major grain exporter in connection with an agricultural trade dispute in a WTO dispute settlement proceeding.
- Served as the Washington lobbyist for a large California county and other clients.
Government Sector Maritime Experience
- Served as an advisor on maritime and transport matters to the U.S. delegation at the Uruguay Round of WTO negotiations.
- Served as the program lead in investigations and trade disputes between the U.S. and other countries over maritime sector market access and restrictions.
- Played a lead role in advising congressional committees and drafting and implementing rulemakings in connection with a deregulation of liner shipping.
- Participated in a month-long staff exchange with the European Commission, learning the fundamentals of EU transport and competition laws and regulations.
- Led U.S. government investigations into restrictive trade practices in China's and Brazil's transport sectors. Also, in coordination with key congressional committees, investigated and analyzed U.S. economic and national security impacts of the Chinese role in a Panamanian port infrastructure development.