Retail imports grow modestly ahead of possible tariffs
Imports at the nation’s major retail container ports will remain at high levels this summer but are expected to grow only modestly compared with last year’s rush to bring merchandise into the country ahead of scheduled tariff increases, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“Retailers still want to protect their customers against potential price increases that would come with any additional tariffs, but with the latest proposed tariffs on hold for now and warehouses bulging, there’s only so much they can do,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy for NRF. “We will still see some near-record numbers this summer, but right now no one knows whether there will be additional tariffs or not. We hope the restarted negotiations with China will result in significant reforms rather than more tariffs that tax American companies and consumers.”
After meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping last month, President Trump said that he would hold off on tariffs on an additional $300 billion in Chinese goods while negotiations between the two countries resume. Coupled with tariffs imposed over the past year, the new round would tax almost all goods the United States imports from China.
“Imports of consumer goods continue to grow as importers purchase items in expectation of further increases in tariffs, the cost of which will be borne by the American consumer,” said Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates. “Trade has become the sharp end of foreign policy, and we continue to believe that this will ultimately damage both sides of the conflict in a lose-lose situation.”
U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker, a free report to NRF retail members, handled 1.85 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in May, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 6 percent from April and up 1.4 percent year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.
For more information on NRF, visit www.nrf.com. For a detailed retail import forecast read the NRF’s press release.