President Biden visited the Port of Los Angeles on Friday where he discussed supply chain challenges and progress and addressed the issue of rising inflation, which he called his “top economic priority.”
He even has some choice words for ocean carriers who have raked in huge profits during the COVID-19 container shipping boom.
New data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday showed that the Consumer Price Index jumped 8.6% in May from a year earlier, surpassing estimates to reach the highest 1-year gain since 1981. The increase was broad-based, with shelter, gasoline, and food being the largest contributors.
President Biden’s visit comes amid ongoing negotiations between West Coast dockworkers, represented by the ILWU, and shipping lines and terminal operators (the employers), represented by the Pacific Marine Association. It also comes one day after President Biden urged Congress to crack down on ocean carriers—blaming them for increasing shipping prices during the pandemic—by passing the Ocean Shipping Reform Act.
“I understand Americans are anxious, and they’re anxious for a good reason,” President Biden said from the deck of the USS Iowa at Port of Los Angeles.
“My administration is going to continue to do everything we can to lower the prices for the American people. And the Congress has to act, and they have been of late,” said President Biden. “One of the key ways to fight inflation is by lowering the cost of moving goods through the supply chain.”
He also thanked waterfront workers and terminals for their efforts in processing record amounts of cargo amid the pandemic.
“Last fall, ports around the world were congested due to disruption caused by the pandemic, so we brought together port operators, shipping companies, and labor to ease the bottlenecks. And as a result, over the holidays last, 97 percent of all the packages were delivered on time and on shelves when you went Christmas shopping. Remember, we weren’t going to have anything on those shelves. You all did it,” President Biden said.
Later in his speach, President Biden reiterated his call to Congress to crack down on foreign-owned shipping companies and three shipping alliances that handle the vast majority of international container shipping to and from the United States.
“Every once in a while, something you learn makes you viscerally angry. Like if you had the person in front of you, you’d want to pop them. No, I really mean it,” President Biden said, adding: “There are nine — nine major ocean line shipping companies that ship from Asia to the United States. Nine. They form three consortia. These companies have raised their prices by as much as 1,000 percent.
“That’s why I called on Congress to crack down on foreign-owned shipping companies that raise their prices while raking in, just last year, $190 billion in profit — a seven-fold increase in one year,” President Biden said.
During his visit, President Biden met with port and labor officials, including executive directors of both the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, to discuss supply chain challenges and highlight the White House’s efforts—including the passing of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law— to combat issues that have driven the highest inflation in 40 years.
“Today, we had the honor and privilege of hosting the 46th president of the United States,” said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka. “The Biden-Harris administration’s convening power of public and private stakeholders has helped drive goods to American consumers and businesses.
“Our ongoing work with the president and his administration continues to focus on our nation’s ports and supply chain resiliency. His visit to the Port of Los Angeles is a recognition of the tremendous effort across the maritime supply chain to move a record volume of cargo for the American economy,” Seroka added.
The meeting aboard the USS Iowa coincided with the final day of the Summit of the Americas, where President Biden introduced his Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity to drive economic growth.
“President Biden’s visit underscores his administration’s ongoing commitment to ensuring the Port of Long Beach can thrive as an economic engine for Southern California and the nation,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero, who was appointed this week to the Maritime Transportation System National Advisory Committee by U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “This special collaboration allows us to continue making the necessary investments in infrastructure and cutting-edge technology that will allow us to remain a leader in trans-Pacific trade.”
“From the start, President Biden made a long-term commitment to help us address the many challenges across the supply chain,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Steven Neal. “We hope our continued partnership will allow the Port to grow, create jobs, and facilitate the efficient and sustainable movement of goods.”
New numbers released this week by the San Pedro Bay ports showed a continued cargo surge, with the Port of Long Beach reporting its second busiest month ever in May while the Port of Los Angeles said May was its third busiest. As we head into peak summer shipping season, the ports expect the surge to continue and possibly be exacerbated by the lifting of COVID-19 lockdowns in China that have hit the country’s exports in recent months.
Sign up for our newsletter