A large number of shipping containers are seen stacked at the Port of Savannah, Georgia, U.S. October 17, 2021. REUTERS/Octavio Jones

Biden’s Commerce Chief Says Supply Chain Hurdles to Last Well Into 2022

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November 9, 2021

By Eric Martin (Bloomberg) —

U.S. supply chains will take “some number of months” to normalize next year, and vaccine mandates for companies will help to address the disruptions as more people return to work, President Joe Biden’s commerce chief said.

Inflationary pressures are likely to moderate as bottlenecks at ports ease and vaccinations help more people return to the workforce, easing labor shortages, Secretary Gina Raimondo said.

Some industries such as automotive manufacturing are already seeing an easing in their supply-chain disruptions, Raimondo said. Chief executive officers of large industrial companies including Boeing Co. have told Raimondo that vaccine mandates will help ease the logjam by making people more comfortable about getting back to work, alleviating labor shortages, she said.

“You’re going to see continuous but slow improvement, and I think you’re well into 2022 before it’s back to normal,” Raimondo said in an interview in Chicago on Monday. “People who are in the industry will tell you that the vaccine mandates will help a lot.”

Labor shortages, antiquated infrastructure, containers in the wrong places and free-spending U.S. shoppers have spurred an import surge that’s disrupted the flow of global trade. Logjams throughout manufacturing, transport and retail networks have deteriorated to the point that the Biden administration has had set up a task force to smooth out the bottlenecks as the holiday shopping season looms.

Raimondo said most of the current inflationary pressures are tied to factors related to the Covid-19 pandemic such as the supply-chain disruptions and labor shortage, and that working through them will reduce the strain on prices. The recent agreement by the U.S. to remove tariffs on steel and aluminum from the European Union will help, she said.

Passage of the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill last week also will help ease inflation pressures because it won’t increase the U.S. debt and will enhance productivity via improvements in roads and shipping, Raimondo said.

While Raimondo said that vaccine mandates will help get people back to work, some rank-and-file workers have been resisting the Biden administration’s rules requiring government contractors to be inoculated, including at Boeing. About 11,000 of the planemaker’s employees have asked to be exempted from the mandate, Bloomberg News reported on Monday, citing a person briefed on the matter.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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