U.S.-bound shipments are strong again in November, reports Panjiva

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United States-bound waterborne shipments saw a strong month of growth, continuing an ongoing trend of positive global trade momentum, according to data released this week by global trade intelligence firm Panjiva.

November shipments were up 3.9% annually to 979,797 topping October’s 1,016,892. Import volumes have been up for nine consecutive months and 16 of the past 17 months. In 2017, U.S.-bound shipments have been up every month except for February.

On a year-to-date basis through November, shipments are up 5.6% at 10,625,752. And for all of 2017 Panjiva is calling for shipments to be up 3.8% at 11,561,442, adding that December needs to be up only 0.5% for that to happen.

“The numbers are telling us that 2017 was the year that the trade protection dog did not bark,” said Panjiva Research Director Chris Rogers. “If you were not paying attention to trade or looking at research and data or [the White House’s planned trade policies], you would think the economy is in great shape. National trade is growing and debt is not universal, even though some products, like autos and toys, are not doing so well. Other sectors like steel, electrical equipment, and electronics are all on a tear. This is backed up by strong consumer confidence numbers and business confidence numbers, too.”

On another note, the numbers also reflect how supply chains change over time, explained Rogers. That is playing out with more manufacturing from “newer” Asian economies like Vietnam and less from more established companies like Taiwan and Japan, with Rogers saying that represents a microcosm of the year as a whole.

Throughout much of 2017, a fair amount of U.S.-bound import activity was spurred on by the concept of countries exporting to the U.S. early trying to get things in ahead of tariffs, or protectionism efforts, from the Trump administration, which, to date, has not been forthcoming.

But Rogers said that it looks unlikely that the White House will enact broad-based protectionist measures before the end of the year, with the caveat that if that were to change, any subsequent impact would not be felt until 2018.

Rogers said that any pending protectionist measures would take a back seat by the White House until tax reform was done and would not “rock the boat” on trade.

“The reviews for the iron and steel industry were not going to get triggered, nor would reviews of China or national security that could roll back tariffs,” he said. “Tax reform has just been done, so it would appear to be a question of what the President is waiting for. That may be what is waiting just around the corner in terms of any type of big surprise. This leads to the question of ‘will the trade dog bark?’ next year. If that happens, this bright environment we are seeing could turn around very quickly.”

The accelerated trade measures, in terms of U.S.-bound imports, have been widely viewed as Chinese manufacturers trying to get a jump on tariffs, which shows quickly pending changes could change the landscape very quickly for trade behavior, said Rogers. 

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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