Operators urge more negotiation to break down remaining trade barriers
Officials at US West Coast ports, some of which have experienced
significant cargo losses, were cautiously optimistic as China and the
United States on Wednesday signed the first part of a hard-fought trade
"We have yet to see any details about the phase one deal, but we do
know that cargo volumes will not return in the short run," said Gene
Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, which has watched
traffic drop for more than year.
"We've experienced 14 consecutive months of declining exports, and
China has developed new trading partners. With imports, the migration of
manufacturing to Southeast Asia is real, and we are seeing the effects
to global trade flows," Seroka said. "All of this may be the new normal.
The global trade and business community needs a sense of certainty so
that we can execute our plans."
US President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He on
Wednesday signed the trade deal at the White House, providing a respite
after 18 months of trade skirmishes between the world's two largest
The Port of Los Angeles, which called China a leading trade partner,
reported that it moved 8.59 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) of
cargo last year through November, which was about a half-percent more
than the same period in 2018.
The port was due to reveal its December trade volume on Thursday, but
that number was expected to fall slightly below the December 2018
figure, which was 9.4 million in cargo volume.
"We applaud this phase one deal, with an ultimate objective of
lifting all of the restrictions on trade that have impacted the budgets
of American families and businesses," said Port of Long Beach Executive
Director Mario Cordero.
"Specifically for this gateway, the pledge by China to buy more
agricultural goods is a big deal for California's farmers, who saw their
buyers of almonds, pistachios, dairy products, wine and other goods dry
up in the trade war," he added.
China accounts for more than half of the trade moving through the Port of Long Beach south of Los Angeles.
Imports from China at the port were down 18.6 percent during the
first three quarters of 2019, compared with the same period in 2018.
Exports to China fell 31 percent for the first three quarters of last
year, compared with 2018.
At the Port of Oakland in northern California, where goods from China
made up 30 percent to 40 percent of its total cargo volume, officials
said they were gratified to see the initial agreement between the US and
China and are hopeful that the development will result in an increase
in global trade.
Mike Zampa, communications director at the Port of Oakland, said:
"The agreement is long overdue. The deal holds promise for our customers
at the Port of Oakland, because it calls for significant increases in
China's purchase of US farm goods, and since Oakland is one of the
nation's principal agricultural export gateways, we expect the exporters
who ship through Oakland are going to benefit."
"So, we are pleased with all of that, however, there's more work to
be done. Most tariffs will remain in place, so we encourage both sides,
the US and China, to resume negotiation and break down the remaining
trade barriers," he added.
California is the largest exporter to China among all US states.
Imports from the country at the San Pedro Bay complex, which includes
the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, fell 9.6 percent during the
first half of 2019, compared with the same period in 2018, while exports
to China declined 22 percent.
Commodities to China
The trade dispute has had a sizable impact on the sales of certain
commodities to China. The bay complex exported 96.6 percent fewer
soybeans and 73.9 percent fewer grains to China.
Wheat exports to China, grown across 10 states from the Pacific
Northwest to the Midwest and exported via Washington and Oregon ports on
the Columbia River, nearly ceased last year.
"We are pleased that this agreement puts a hold on the increasing
tariffs and retaliatory tariffs between the United States and China and
hopeful that this initial agreement results in additional reductions in
tariffs over the coming months," said Peter McGraw, media officer at the
Port of Seattle in Washington state.
"We believe that productive engagement and negotiation is the best
way to address barriers to a fair and level playing field for trade
between our two countries," he added.
In September, the six largest West Coast ports－the ports of Los
Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, and Portland-appealed to
the Trump administration in a joint letter warning that the escalating
trade conflict between the two countries "will create irredeemable