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Seaborne Exports Plummet at Southern California Ports

Saturday, 15 December 2018 | 00:00

Seaborne exports at the biggest U.S. trans-Pacific trade gateway plunged last month, in an apparent sign of the impact of China’s retaliatory tariffs.

Outbound container volume at the neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach fell 11.8% in November from the same month last year, the first decline since the spring after seven straight months of export growth.

Much of the goods trade between the U.S. and China flows through the Southern California ports and this year’s trade dispute between the two nations has played out at port terminals and on roads and railways in this region — often hitting earlier and more directly than at other seaports around the country.

The earlier growth in export volume through Los Angeles and Long Beach was likely driven by the impending tariffs, said Walter Kemmsies, an economist specializing in ports and infrastructure at real-estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., also known as JLL. “Everybody was hustling to get into China before the door slammed on them,” he said.

Beijing imposed duties on numerous categories of U.S. products after the Trump administration announced tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods. China’s tariffs went into effect in three rounds — in July, August and September.

Mr. Kemmsies said many companies sign export contracts and plan out their shipping routes months in advance, so it may have taken two or three months before the impact of the tariffs cut into shipment volumes.

“If you’re a truck racing down the highway and you slam on the brakes, it can take a mile before you come to a complete halt,” Mr. Kemmsies said. “That’s all coming into effect now.”

China’s monthly trade surplus with the U.S. reached a record high of $35.55 billion in November, with exports to the U.S. expanding nearly 10%.

Exports at California’s Port of Oakland were flat in November, while Georgia’s Port of Savannah, the East Coast’s second-largest gateway, reported a 4.4% annual decline.
Source: Dow Jones

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