Higher Sales and Tariff Dread Drive Retail Import Increases

by Ruth Seeley

“Tariff increases and new tariffs will mean higher costs for U.S. businesses, higher prices for American consumers and lost jobs for many American workers. We encourage the administration to stay focused on a trade agreement, and we hope the negotiations will get back on track. It would be unfortunate to undermine the progress that has been made with more tit-for-tat tariffs that only punish Americans.”

That’s the message from National Retail Federation (NRF) Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold as the tariff hike that was put on hold earlier this year looks like it’s back on effective Friday, May 17, 2019, as 10% tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods will rise to 25% and that new 25% tariffs will be imposed on most remaining Chinese goods at an unspecified date.

The monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the NRF and Hackett Associates showed a sharp increase in April Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units* (TEUs), up 7.7% year-over-year. Higher retail sales accounted for some of the rise, but the anticipated increased cost of goods due to the China/U.S. trade war was the major factor.

The report 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. They handled 1.61 million TEUs in March, down 0.6% from February but up 4.4% year-over-year.

April was estimated at 1.76 million TEU, up 7.7% year-over-year. May is forecast at 1.9 million TEU, up 4.2%; June at 1.92 million TEU, up 3.7%; July at 1.96 million TEU, up 3%; August at 1.98 million TEU, up 4.6%, and September at 1.91 million, up 2%. Imports have never before hit the 1.9 million TEU mark earlier than July. And the August number would be the highest monthly total since the record 2 million TEU record set last October.

Imports during 2018 set a record of 21.8 million TEU, an increase of 6.2% over 2017’s previous record of 20.5 million TEU. The first half of 2019 is expected to total 10.7 million TEU, up 3.9% over the first half of 2018.

Source:  NRF

* A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

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