U.S. ports worried that tariff battle could hit shipping volume

Leaders at big U.S. seaports say escalating global trade tensions could drive down cargo volumes at the gateways and hit jobs and businesses that depend on the flow of goods across supply chains.

Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said the tariffs recently enacted or proposed by the U.S. and its trading partners would affect 15% of all cargo that moves through Los Angeles, the nation’s largest container port.

‘It’s not that we’re pushing the panic button, but we’re watching this very closely because it does have an impact on a number of things, from consumer prices to jobs.’
Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles

Last year, Chinese trading partners accounted for $145 billion in import and export trade at the port, more than half of the port’s total of $284 billion. Based on a staff analysis, Seroka said 59% of that trade could be subject to new tariffs.

Economists say the impact could spread beyond the specific categories of imports and exports that may be subject to tariffs.

“In a global supply chain, it’s not just trade in finished products, but components and materials make up part of what’s traded,” said Paul Bingham, an economist with Economic Development Research Group. “If you continue to purchase those imports, you’re going to pay higher tariffs. That’s a higher cost of production.”

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