The looming threat of a trade war could halt otherwise strong growth in the exchange of cargo between Asia and the United States, experts said Wednesday at the Port of Long Beach’s 14th annual “Pulse of the Ports Peak Season Forecast.”
About 500 people gathered at the Long Beach Convention Center for the event, which brings together a panel of shipping and trade experts to offer their perspectives on industry trends and how they affect the San Pedro Bay port complex.
One of the panelists, Drewry Maritime Research Senior Quantitative Economist Mario Moreno, predicted Asia-U.S. trade will grow 6.8 percent in 2018, the fastest pace in more than half-a-dozen years. He also estimated the overall U.S. economy will expand 2.8 percent.
While President Donald Trump and China have proposed higher tariffs, an all-out trade war between China and the United States appears unlikely, according to Moreno.
“Both nations have a lot to lose,” Moreno said. “Consumer prices would certainly go up here in the U.S., and the Chinese government would certainly retaliate by imposing tariffs of their own.”
U.S.-China trade accounts for more than two-thirds of imports and almost one-third of exports at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
“These are challenging but exciting times,” Harbor Commission President Lou Anne Bynum said. “We believe we’re in a good place for continued growth, but we know that there’s going to be game changers coming our way. The purpose of this event is to help us identify, anticipate and answer these challenges.”
“I know of no other gathering like this one in our industry, and we are proud to host it,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero. “This forum gives us the opportunity to step back and take a look at our industry’s issues from all angles.”
In addition to Moreno, panelists at the 2018 Pulse of the Ports included Steve Gonzales, Vice President of Sales and Marketing Development, Plastic Express; Daniel Gardner, Vice President of Supply Chain, Lakeshore Learning Materials; Lawrence Burns, Senior Vice President of Trades and Sales, Hyundai America Shipping Agency Inc.; Anthony Otto, President, Long Beach Container Terminal; Beth F. Whited, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Union Pacific Railroad; Ken Kellaway, President and CEO, RoadOne Intermodal Logistics; and Larry Gross, President, Gross Transportation Consulting.