• By The Financial District

Biden Eases Supply Chain Woes But Fight Isn't Over Yet

President Biden’s claim to have eased bottlenecks at a vital US port complex marks an initial win in what is likely to prove a long campaign to free Americans from tangled supply chains, David Lynch reported for the Washington Post.

Photo Insert: It's been a very eventful term so far for US President Joe Biden

The president in recent days cited progress in moving shipping containers off Southern California’s crowded docks and a decline in spot rates for ocean cargo as evidence that the administration’s push to ensure that store shelves are stocked for the holidays is paying off.

“Because of the actions we’ve taken, things have begun to change,” Biden said in a speech at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Coupled with assurances of adequate inventories from retailers including Walmart and Target, the sunny shipping news represented a welcome development for Biden.

The president’s public approval ratings have sagged in recent weeks as consumers soured on goods shortages and the highest inflation in 30 years.

Yet even as Biden took credit for the turnaround, industry groups and logistics specialists warned that a return to the smooth flow of goods that was typical before the pandemic remains a long way off.

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“It’s still a hot mess,” said Stephen Lamar, president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association. “We have to dig ourselves out of a daunting hole to get a sense of anything like normalcy, and that’s going to take a long, long time.”

Administration officials in recent weeks have steered supply chain participants toward coordinated action to clear clogged freight channels, including calling for round-the-clock dock work. And the mountains of freight marooned on wharves have slowly started to shrink.

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But the goods pipeline won’t really operate normally until Americans return to their traditional spending patterns, abandoned amid the pandemic. And there is no sign such a shift is imminent.

Likewise, some of the president’s policy remedies, including $17 billion in new port spending and potential antitrust moves against the three main shipping alliances, will take years to produce benefits.

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Disjointed supply chains have become a distinguishing feature of the global recovery, affecting each of 45 economies surveyed by Oxford Economics.

Current disruptions are likely to peak before year’s end and “mostly ease” by the second half of next year, the investment firm said, citing falling shipping rates and signs that companies are succeeding in rebuilding depleted inventories.

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