Retailers Stock Up Ahead of Tariffs, Setting Import Records

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By The Maritime Executive 08-10-2018 06:23:06

The National Retail Federation reports that stores are bringing in more goods in advance of the imposition of new tariffs on China, setting records at major U.S. container seaports. 

According to the NRF's data, the largest U.S. retail ports handled container imports totaling 1.85 million TEU in June, the highest monthly volume ever recorded and an eight percent increase year-over-year. The volumes for July and August are expected to be higher. 

"We’re seeing new record levels every month this summer. Much of that is to meet consumer demand as tax reform and a thriving economy drive retail sales, but part of it seems to be concern over what’s to come," said NRF VP for supply chain and customs Jonathan Gold. "The good news for consumers is that avoiding tariffs holds off price increases that will inevitably come if the reckless and misguided trade war is allowed to continue.”

Ben Hackett, the founder of NRF data partner Hackett Associates, said that his firm expects to see a decline in volume next year due to the escalating tariff disputes between the U.S. and its major trading partners. "The volatility and non-fact-based decisions coming from Washington have created uncertainty," he warned. 

New tariff announcements

The Trump administration has made three major tariff announcements this week. On Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury released a list of 279 Chinese products that will be subject to 25 percent tariffs starting August 23. These commodities range from plastics to agricultural machinery to integrated circuits, and they have a combined value totaling $16 billion. China immediately announced retaliatory tariffs on $16 billion in American goods. 

On Friday, President Donald Trump said that he had authorized doubling tariffs on Turkey's steel and aluminum exports to the United States. The increase would raise the tariff on Turkish aluminum to 20 percent and on Turkish steel to 50 percent. The announcement was not related to a trade dispute, but rather to the Turkish government's detention of U.S. citizens.

Later in the day, President Trump threatened new tariffs on Canadian-built cars if Canada did not reach an agreement with U.S. negotiators to revise NAFTA. “Tariffs and Trade Barriers are far too high," Trump said in a tweet. “Will tax cars if we can’t make a deal!”