Imports at major U.S. retail container ports are expected to see their final surge of the year this month ahead of new tariffs set to take effect in December, according to the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“Retailers are highly competitive, but the ability to compete has been challenging this year because of the uncertainty of the trade war and continued tariff escalation,” Jonathan Gold, NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy, said.
“Retailers are encouraged by reports that China and the United States have agreed to remove at least some of the existing tariffs once a ‘phase one’ deal is signed. We are eager to see concrete evidence that the trade war is coming to an end with a final deal that removes all tariffs.”
President Trump announced tentative agreement on a partial trade deal with China last month, but officials are still working on the details and have not announced a date or location for the measure to be signed. An October tariff increase was canceled and, according to news reports, some tariffs could be removed, but there has been no word on a new round of tariffs on consumer goods currently scheduled to take effect December 15, NRF informed.
“Industry planning is in a state of confusion with the on-again, off-again tariff increases and the widening of trade disputes,” Ben Hackett, Hackett Associates Founder, said.
U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.87 million TEUs in September, up 0.2 percent year-over-year but down 4.7 percent from August, when imports saw their second-highest level on record 1.97 million TEU ahead of tariffs that took effect September 1.
October was estimated at 1.93 million, down 5.2 percent from last year’s record 2 million TEU. November is forecast at 1.96 million TEU, up 8.3 percent year-over-year, but imports are expected to fall to 1.78 million TEU in December, down 9.2 percent from near-record numbers last year ahead of scheduled tariffs that were later postponed.