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NRF: Despite NAFTA uncertainty, imports 'riding high' in 2017

Total imports for 2017 are expected to be 20 million TEUs, up 6.4 percent over 2016.
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Imports at the United States' major retail container ports are projected to grow 1.5 percent this month over the same period last year, according to the latest Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

Ports covered by the report are expected to handle 1.6 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) this month. For October, ports handled 1.77 million TEUs, up 0.3 percent and up 5.9 percent year over year. November was estimated at 1.64 million TEUs, down 0.3 percent.

Total imports for 2017 are expected to be 20 million TEUs, up 6.4 percent over 2016.

"Retailers are doing last-minute restocking as consumers head toward the finish line of the shopping season, but the majority of holiday merchandise is already in the country and ports are beginning to quiet down," NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. "With tax cuts that will leave more money in shoppers' pockets in the headlines and consumer confidence high, all signs are that this has been a strong holiday season."

Gold observed that imports have been "riding high" despite President Donald Trump's threats to withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA).

However, retailers' ability to provide products at affordable prices could be threatened if the United States leaves NAFTA or engages in "other anti-trade policy," Gold said.

"Concerns continue about what will happen in 2018 and beyond," he added.

January 2018 is forecast at 1.67 million TEUs, down 0.5 percent from January 2017, while February 2018's count is estimated at 1.6 million TEUs, or 11.6 percent over 2017. For March 2018, ports are projected to handle 1.5 million TEUs, down 2 percent.

The February and March percentages are skewed due to changes caused by Asian factories closing for Lunar New Year, NRF officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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