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March 13, 2018

U.S. retailers say new tariffs threaten import growth, could impact consumers

According to the United States' National Retail Federation's (NRF) monthly Global Port Tracker, imports at the country's major retail container ports are expected to dip slightly this month, a result of annual Asian factory shutdowns for Lunar New Year.

However, the NRF says the new tariffs on steel and aluminum imposed last week could eventually have an impact on the ports.

"With steel and aluminum tariffs already in place, new tariffs on goods from China being threatened and the ongoing threat of NAFTA withdrawal, we could very quickly have a trade war on our hands," NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. "The immediate impact would be higher prices for American consumers that would throw away the gains of tax reform and put a roadblock in front of economic growth. But in the long term we could see a loss in cargo volume and all the jobs that depend on it, from dockworkers on down through the supply chain."

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.73 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in January, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 0.2 percent from December and up 1.8 percent from a year ago.

February was estimated at 1.66 million TEU, up 13.7 percent year-over-year. March is forecast at 1.53 million TEU, down 1.8 percent from last year; April at 1.7 million TEU, up 4.7 percent; May at 1.79 million TEU, up 2.5 percent; June at 1.8 million TEU, up 4.7 percent, and July at 1.88 million TEU, up 4 percent. The February and March numbers are skewed by variations in when Lunar New Year falls each year and Asian factories close for periods ranging from a week to a month.

The first half of 2018 is expected to total 10.2 million TEU, an increase of 4.1 percent over the first half of 2017.

Source: NRF