Retail imports on upswing despite threat of tariffs

BY Marianne Wilson

Imports at the nation’s major retail container ports are expected to grow steadily throughout the summer despite the prospect of heavy tariffs on goods from China.

That’s according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates. A recent report by the NRF and the Consumer Technology Association found that the Trump administration’s proposed tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports, coupled with retaliation promised by China, would reduce U.S. gross domestic product by nearly $3 billion and destroy 134,000 American jobs annually.

“With proposed tariffs yet to be officially imposed, retailers are stocking up on merchandise that could soon cost considerably more,” NRF VP for supply chain and customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “If tariffs do take effect, there’s no quick or easy way to switch where these products come from. American families will simply be stuck paying higher prices and hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs could be lost.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.54 million 20-foot equivalent units (a TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent) in March, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 8.6% from February due to Lunar New Year factory shutdowns in Asia but down only 0.7% year-over-year.

April was estimated at 1.73 million TEU, up 6.4% year-over-year. May is forecast at 1.82 million TEU, up 4.3% from last year; June also at 1.82 million TEU, up 6.1%; July at 1.9 million TEU, up 5.5%; August at 1.92 million TEU, up 4.6%.

The numbers forecast for July and August would each set new records for the number of containers imported in a single month, beating the previous high of 1.83 million TEU in August 2017.

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.


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