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NRF: Imports threatened by growing trade war

Imports at the nation’s major retail container ports are on the rise — at least for now.

Imports at the ports are expected to grow a healthy 5.8% year-over-year this month. But they could be threatened if the developing trade war the United States and China continues to escalate, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Tariffs are a tax on American consumers in the form of higher prices but they are also a tax on American jobs,” said Jonathan Gold, VP for supply chain and customs policy, NRF. “If tariffs ultimately lead to a reduction in imports and exports, that will put dockworkers and countless others in the supply chain out of work. American consumers and workers should not be punished for China’s wrongdoing.”

Added Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett: “There is nothing good about a trade war. It is a vicious circle of retaliation where there are no winners, only losers.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.69 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in February, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 4.1% from January, but up 15% from a year ago. (The year-over-year number is skewed because of fluctuations in when Lunar New Year factory shutdowns occur in Asia each year.) A TEU is one 20-ft.-long cargo container or its equivalent.

March was estimated at 1.54 million TEU, down 1.2% year-over-year. April is forecast at 1.72 million TEU, up 5.8% from last year.

The first half of 2018 is expected to total 10.4 million TEU, an increase of 5.6% over the first half of 2017. The total for 2017 was 20.5 million TEU, up 7.6% from 2016’s previous record of 19.1 million TEU.

Global Port Tracker, 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.
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