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            september 15, 2019

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US retailers still stock up to get ahead of ever-looming tariff threat


Imports at US container ports are expected to continue to grow this summer as retailers stock up inventory to get ahead of higher tariffs, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker commissioned by the National Retail Federation (NRF).
"With a major tariff increase already announced and the possibility that tariffs could be imposed on nearly all goods and inputs from China, retailers are continuing to stock up while they can," said NRF vice president Jonathan Gold.
"If we see further escalation in the trade war, it will be much more difficult to avoid higher price tags on a wide range of products. It's time to stop using American families as pawns in negotiations for better trade deals," he said.
The Trump administration increased 10 per cent tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 per cent in May, with the increase applying to imports that arrive in the United States after June 15.
The administration has also proposed to implement new 25 per cent tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods and recently removed India and Turkey from the Generalised System of Preferences programme, which allows certain items to be imported duty-free.
In addition, the administration announced a five per cent escalating tariff on all imports from Mexico, but those goods travel by truck or train and do no effect cargo numbers at US seaports.
"One must wonder who the Trump administration is trying to punish with its growing enthusiasm for tariffs," said Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett.
US ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.75 million TEU in April, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 8.4 per cent from March and up 6.9 per cent year on year.
May was estimated at 1.88 million TEU, up three per cent year on year. June is forecast at 1.86 million TEU, up 0.3 per cent; July at 1.93 million TEU, up 1.1 per cent; August at 1.95 million TEU, up 3.3 per cent; September at 1.89 million, up 0.9 per cent, and October at 1.95 million TEU, down 4.4 per cent. The August and October numbers would be the highest monthly totals since the two million TEU record set last October as retailers rushed to bring merchandise into the country ahead of expected tariff increases.
Imports during 2018 set a record of 21.8 million TEU, an increase of 6.2 per cent over 2017's previous record of 20.5 million TEU. The first half of 2019 is expected to total 10.6 million TEU, up three per cent over the first half of 2018.
Port Tracker covers the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York/New Jersey, Ports of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami, Jacksonville and Houston.

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