U.S. Retail Imports Growing Despite Threat of Tariffs
Imports at U.S. major retail container ports are expected to grow steadily throughout the summer despite the prospect of heavy tariffs on goods from China, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released this week by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“With proposed tariffs yet to be officially imposed, retailers are stocking up on merchandise that could soon cost considerably more,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “If tariffs do take effect, there’s no quick or easy way to switch where these products come from. American families will simply be stuck paying higher prices and hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs could be lost.”
The NRF believes the proposed tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports, coupled with retaliation promised by China, would reduce U.S. gross domestic product by nearly $3 billion and destroy 134,000 American jobs.
Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.54 million TEUs in March, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 8.6 percent from February because of Lunar New Year factory shutdowns in Asia but down only 0.7 percent year-over-year.
April was estimated at 1.73 million TEU, up 6.4 percent year-over-year. May is forecast at 1.82 million TEU, up 4.3 percent from last year; June also at 1.82 million TEU, up 6.1 percent; July at 1.9 million TEU, up 5.5 percent; August at 1.92 million TEU, up 4.6 percent, and September at 1.82 million TEU, up 2.1 percent.
The numbers forecast for July and August would each set new records for the number of containers imported in a single month, beating the previous high of 1.83 million TEU in August 2017.
The first half of 2018 is expected to total 10.4 million TEU, an increase of 5.8 percent over the first half of 2017. The total for 2017 was 20.5 million TEU, up 7.6 percent from 2016’s previous record of 19.1 million TEU.
Despite the threats and risks to trade, Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett continues to see solid expansion. “This is driven by a high level of confidence as the economy remains strong and unemployment is at its lowest level in nearly two decades.”