Retail imports surge ahead of more tariffs
According to the monthly Global Port Tracker, a report that is produced for National Retail Federation (NRF) by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, imports at the nation’s major retail container ports reached unusually high numbers just before new tariffs on goods from China took effect Sept. 1, 2019. The numbers are expected to surge again before another round of tariffs take effect in December, according to the report.
“Retailers are still trying to minimize the impact of the trade war on consumers by bringing in as much merchandise as they can before each new round of tariffs takes effect and drives up prices,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president supply chain and customs policy for NRF. “That’s the same pattern we’ve seen over the past year, but we’re very quickly going to be at the point where virtually all consumer goods will be subject to these taxes on American families. The upcoming October talks with China are an opportunity to put a stop to this escalation, repeal the tariffs that have been imposed and focus on growing the economy.”
New 15% tariffs on a wide range of consumer goods from China took effect at the beginning of September and are scheduled to be expanded to additional goods on Dec. 15 – covering a total of about $300 billion in imports. In addition, 25% tariffs on $250 billion worth of imports already imposed over the past year will increase to 30% on October 1.
“The tariff war with China closely resembles a poker game, with each country continually upping the ante,” said Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates. “As each side eyes its hand, things can only get worse.”
U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.96 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) in July, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 9.1% from June and up 2.9% year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.
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Numbers were high again in August, which was estimated at 1.93 million TEU, up 1.8% year-over-year. September is forecast at 1.85 million, down 0.7% from last year; October at 1.92 million TEU, down 5.5%; November at 1.97 million TEU, up 8.8%, and December at 1.77 million TEU, down 9.8%.
The first half of 2019 totaled 10.5 million TEU, up 2.1% over the first half of 2018, and 2019 is expected to see a new record of 21.9 million TEU. That would be up 0.7% from last year’s previous record of 21.8 million TEU, which rose 6.2% over 2017.
January 2020 is forecast at 1.81 million TEU, down 4.5% from January 2019.