Ex­ports from Cal­i­for­nia ports surged in April on trade un­ease

Manila Bulletin - - Shipping Bulletin -

LOS AN­GE­LES – Ship­ments from the big­gest US West Coast ports to Asia are pick­ing up steam in a sign that com­pa­nies are step­ping up orders ahead of an­tic­i­pated new trade re­stric­tions.

Loaded con­tainer ex­ports from the neigh­bor­ing ports of Los An­ge­les and Long Beach jumped 12% yearover-year in April from a year ago to 306,503 20-foot equiv­a­lent units, or TEUs, a ship­ping-in­dus­try mea­sure of ship­ment vol­ume. That made April the big­gest month for ex­ports at the largest sea­port com­plex in North Amer­ica since March, 2017.

"Anx­i­ety is driv­ing the ex­port trade," said Jock O'Con­nell, an in­ter­na­tional trade economist based in Cal­i­for­nia. China rep­re­sents roughly half of the ex­ports that move through South­ern Cal­i­for­nia's ports, Mr. O'Con­nell said.

"Ship­pers want to get their goods on the high seas and to their fi­nal des­ti­na­tions be­fore the gates close on US ex­ports," he said.

Sharp rhetoric and threats of tar­iffs and other re­stric­tions have been fly­ing be­tween the US and China for sev­eral months, rais­ing un­cer­tainty for both Chi­nese buy­ers and Amer­i­can ex­porters about fu­ture de­mand.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Beijing and Washington have been talk­ing about po­ten­tial so­lu­tions to avert a full trade war, with new dis­cus­sions fo­cused on a plan that would have China hold back tar­iffs and other re­stric­tions on a va­ri­ety of US agri­cul­tural prod­ucts while the US gives Chi­nese telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment sup­plier ZTE Corp. a re­prieve from pre­vi­ously-an­nounced sanc­tions.

Ship­ments from the big­gest US trade gate­ways to Asia have been grow­ing at a rapid pace this year. Vol­umes from the South­ern Cal­i­for­nia ports jumped 6.6% from Jan­uary to Fe­bru­ary and then an­other 6.1% in March, be­fore reach­ing the 13-month high last month.

"No­body's quite sure what will hap­pen in the next few days," Mr. O'Con­nell said. "It seems like the rules are be­ing changed on an hourly ba­sis."

Ex­ports out of the Port of Oak­land rose just 0.5% from a year ago to 77,995 TEUs. But Oak­land port of­fi­cials said strong ex­ports of agri­cul­tural goods such as meat, fruit and veg­eta­bles, have off­set a de­cline in the ex­port of scrap ma­te­ri­als – a high-vol­ume busi­ness that China re­stricted ear­lier this year.

In China, ex­ports rose 13% in April as im­ports surged 21.5% com­pared with a year ear­lier. As both in­bound and out­bound ship­ments ac­cel­er­ated, China's trade sur­plus with the US reached over $22 bil­lion in April, up 44% from March.

The monthly Global Port Tracker re­port, re­leased last week by the Na­tional Re­tail Fed­er­a­tion and Hack­ett As­so­ci­ates, pro­jected that im­ports into the US would keep grow­ing un­til the ne­go­ti­a­tions reach a con­clu­sion and any new re­stric­tions go into ef­fect. The re­port es­ti­mated that US re­tail im­ports reached 1.73 mil­lion TEUs in April, an in­crease of 6.4% over the same month last year. (WSJ)

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