Retail imports rising ahead of expected higher tariffs
May 10, 2019
With retail sales rising and
President Trump saying he plans to both increase and broaden tariffs on
goods from China, imports at the nation’s major retail container ports
are expected to see unusually high levels the remainder of this spring
and through the summer, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker
report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett
“Much of this is driven by consumer demand but retailers are likely to
resume stocking up merchandise before new tariffs can take effect,” NRF
Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said.
“Tariff increases and new tariffs will mean higher costs for U.S.
businesses, higher prices for American consumers and lost jobs for many
American workers. We encourage the administration to stay focused on a
trade agreement, and we hope the negotiations will get back on track. It
would be unfortunate to undermine the progress that has been made with
more tit-for-tat tariffs that only punish Americans.”
The rush to bring merchandise into the country that was seen through
much of last year slowed down after Trump postponed a tariff hike from
January to March and then put it on hold indefinitely as trade talks
with China showed signs of progress. But Trump said this week that 10
percent tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods will rise to 25
percent on Friday, and that he plans to impose new 25 percent tariffs on
most remaining Chinese goods at an unspecified date.
U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.61 million
Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in March, the latest month for which
after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 0.6 percent from
February but up 4.4 percent year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long
cargo container or its equivalent.
April was estimated at 1.76 million TEU, up 7.7 percent year-over-year.
May is forecast at 1.9 million TEU, up 4.2 percent; June at 1.92 million
TEU, up 3.7 percent; July at 1.96 million TEU, up 3 percent; August at
1.98 million TEU, up 4.6 percent, and September at 1.91 million, up 2
percent. Imports have never before hit the 1.9 million TEU mark earlier
than July. And the August number would be the highest monthly total
since the record 2 million TEU record set last October.
during 2018 set a record of 21.8 million TEU, an increase of 6.2 percent
over 2017’s previous record of 20.5 million TEU. The first half of 2019
is expected to total 10.7 million TEU, up 3.9 percent over the first
half of 2018.
“Consumption is facing the potential of increased tariffs on Chinese
imports if President Trump’s tweets are anything to go by,” Hackett
Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. “One can only hope that this is a
simple negotiating tactic that will run out of steam.”
Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm
Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach,
Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Port
of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and
Jacksonville on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.