Imports reach record 2M containers as retailers rush to beat tariffs
- Retailers continue to rush merchandise into the country ahead of the now-postponed tariff increases on goods from China, according to a press release from the National Retail Federation (NRF).
- U.S. ports covered in the Global Port Tracker report from NRF and Hackett Associates handled 2.04 million TEUs in October, up 9% from September and 13.6% YoY. A TEU is one 20-foot long cargo container or its equivalent.
- January is forecast at 1.72 million TEUs. "We see a significant slowdown in import growth in 2019 as the market adjusts to higher prices due to the Trump tariffs and the impact on consumer and industry confidence going forward," Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said in the release.
The remainder of this year will be strong, as November was estimated at 2.01 million TEUs, a 14% YoY increase. December, generally slow because most holiday merchandise already is on the shelves, is forecast at 1.83 million TEUs, a 6.1% increase over last year. Those numbers, NRF says, will bring 2018 to a total of 21.8 million TEUs, a 6.5% increase over last year’s record 20.5 million.
Even before President Donald Trump slapped a 10% tariff on more than $200 billion in Chinese goods in September, retailers ordered goods at a rapid rate to beat the tariff that would further hamper operations and the bottom line.
Retailers remain wary, even in the wake of the recent 90-day "ceasefire" on the tariff wars between the two countries.
"We hope that the temporary stand-down becomes permanent, but in the meantime there has been a rush to bring merchandise in before existing tariffs go up or new ones can be imposed," NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in the release.
U.S. businesses are not standing pat in case China and the Trump administration don’t come to an agreement regarding tariffs. The NRF is one of more than 80 organizations that, in September, formed Americans for Free Trade, a multi-industry coalition aimed at opposing tariffs and highlighting the benefits of international trade to the U.S. economy. Some members include Farmers for Free Trade, National Fisheries Institute, the Information Technology Industry Council, The Toy Association and the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
The campaign will focus on "telling the stories of American businesses, farmers, workers and families harmed by tariffs through town-hall style events, grassroots outreach to Congress and the administration, social media, rapid response and digital advertising."
"Every sector of the U.S. economy stands to lose in a trade war," National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said when the coalition was announced. “The stakes couldn't be higher for American families, businesses, farmers and workers threatened by job losses and higher prices as a result of tit-for-tat tariffs. That’s why a diverse coalition of industries is banding together to amplify the voices of hardworking Americans and ensure Washington understands the real-world consequences of a trade war."
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