US supply chain problems will 'continue into 2022'

19 October 2021

US transport secretary Pete Buttigieg has said supply chain disruptions will continue into 2022, but he claimed supply issues were a sign the country was bouncing back following the pandemic. 

Buttigieg told CNN’s State of the Union: “A lot of the challenges we have been experiencing this year will continue into next year.” 

However, he insisted the crisis was under control, and shortages were a sign the country had avoided a “terrifying recession”.

“There are both short term and long-term steps we can take to do something about it. Part of what’s happening isn’t just the supply side, it’s the demand side. Demand is off the charts. Retail sales are through the roof. If you think about those images of ships anchored on the West Coast, every one of those ships is full of record amounts of goods,” he said.

“Demand is up because income is up, because the president has successfully guided this economy out of the teeth of a terrifying recession.”

When asked about the possibility of president Joe Biden removing tariffs against China imposed by former president Donald Trump, which some argue would take pressure off US supply chains, Buttigieg said: “Every idea is being taken seriously.” He refused to commit any further on the matter. 

Biden announced in a speech last week that ports in California’s Los Angeles and Long Beach, which account for 40% of the country’s imports, would commence 24-7 operations in a bid to overcome bottlenecks. 

Biden said: “A twenty four-seven system [is] what most of the leading countries in the world already operated on now, except us. This is the first, first key step for moving our entire freight transportation and logistical supply chain nationwide to a twenty four-seven system.”

He said this would create an additional 60 working hours a week, and allow HGV trucks to transport goods on the roads throughout the night when there was little traffic, and said freight transported at night could be delivered 25% quicker than that delivered during the day.

“Today's announcement has the potential to be a game changer,” he said. 

He called on the US private sector to follow in the footsteps of Walmart, Target, Home Depot and Samsung which have committed to increasing their off-peak freight operations to relieve the US’ supply chain pressures. 

“Goods won't move by themselves,” he warned. “For the positive impact to be felt all across the country and by all of you at home, we need major retailers who order the goods and the freight movers who take the goods from the ships to the stores, to step up as well. These private sector companies are the ones that hire the trucks and rail cars and move the goods.”

The president committed the administration to prioritising US supply chains. 

“Strengthening our supply chain will continue to be my team's focus. If federal support is needed, I'll direct all appropriate action.

“And if the private sector doesn't step up, we're going to call them out and ask them to act, because our goal is not only to get through this immediate bottleneck, but to address the long standing weaknesses in our transportation supply chain that this pandemic has exposed.”

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