The Port of Long Beach handled over 7.5 million units of cargo in 2017 and is poised to surpass that total in 2018. Recently implemented tariffs threaten to stunt the momentum seen in the first six months of the year.
The Port of Long Beach. Stock photo.

Tariffs imposed during ongoing trade wars, mostly between the United States and China, are threatening nearly 1.5 million American jobs and more than $186 billion of economic activity nationwide, according to a Port of Los Angeles-commissioned study released today.

The study forecasts negative international trade trends through the San Pedro Bay ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The report, based on the effects tariffs have had on cargo volumes handled over the last year, also outlines economic effects the recent lack of exports have had on congressional districts.

“Every urban, suburban and rural community across our nation benefits from imports and exports moving through the San Pedro Bay ports, and ongoing tariffs are putting those benefits at risk,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said. “Some regions and industries are already feeling the pain, and the damage to jobs, income and tax revenue could be crippling down the road.”

China accounts for 54% of imports and 29% of U.S. exports moving through the San Pedro Bay ports, based on value, according to the report researched and prepared by BST Associates, an independent economic consulting firm.

“This study provides graphic proof that a trade policy relying on overuse of tariffs can rebound badly on America, causing more harm than good to our long-term economic health,” said Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council. “The (Trump) administration’s imposition of tariffs as high as 25% has raised costs for everyday consumers of basic products such as food and clothing, home appliances and our ubiquitous iPhones.”

President Donald Trump, speaking Tuesday at the Economic Club of New York, criticized Chinese leaders and said “America will not be taken advantage of anymore.”

He said his administration has made progress in trade talks with China.

“They (China) are dying to make a deal. We’re the ones deciding whether we want to make a deal,” Trump said. “We’re close. A significant phase-one trade deal with China could happen, could happen soon, but we will only accept a deal if it’s good for the United States and our workers and our great companies.”

Trump defended the tariffs his administration has imposed on imports from China, saying that the moves are hurting China’s economy and not U.S. consumers.

“We’re taking millions and millions of dollars in tariffs that China is paying for,” the president said.

The Port’s study concluded the tariffs imposed by the U.S. over the last two years could add additional costs to goods in retail sectors and to American manufacturing, which relies on imported raw materials and components to produce American-made products.

“The implications are much bigger when you consider all U.S. ports, so the effects that the Port of Los Angeles is seeing should concern all U.S. ports of entry,” Seroka said.

Cargo moving through the Port of Los Angeles is valued at more than $380 billion, and the economic activity it generates includes more than three million jobs nationwide, according to Port officials, who said October saw 25% fewer ship calls and a 19.1% decrease in volume compared to October 2018.

The Port of Long Beach has also seen dips in its cargo volume since the implementation of tariffs.