Economists predict US import-export growth

Economists are predicting that next year will see US imports and exports returning to pre-recession levels. Improving global trade is giving stronger confidence to supply chain managers, according to analysts from the trade intelligence service PIERS, who are forecasting a 7.7% increase in US container imports from Asia.

The 13.4m 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) forecast for US trans-Pacific imports would be close to the 13.6m TEUs seen in 2007.

For the US trans-Pacific exports, predictions are for a 4% growth to 6.4m TEUs.

The predictions come following this year’s estimated 15.5% increase in US trans-Pacific imports and 4.3% increase in exports.

“Our forecast is positive but moderate,” said Mario O. Moreno, economist for PIERS and its sister company The Journal of Commerce, both part of UBM Global Trade. “We look for growth in containerized imports and exports ahead, but there are many risks.”

According to the National Retail Federation, import cargo volumes in US ports was expected to be up 9% this month, compared to December 2009, while the year as a whole should end with a 17% increase over 2009.

The latest actual figures available for US ports show October 2010 unchanged from September with 1.34m TEUs handled, but this was 13% up from October 2009 and also proved to be the 11th month in a row showing a year-on-year improvement following 28 months of decline.

The National Retail Federation is predicting the monthly year-on-year increases to continue, with November 15% up on last year, December 9% up, January up 8% and February – traditionally the slowest month of the year – forecast for a 10% increase on February 2010.

“We haven’t fully recovered from the recession,” said NRF vice president for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold, “But import levels have seen solid increases throughout the year and we expect that to continue in 2011.”

Along with the revival in the global economy and a last week’s tax cut bill signed by US President Barrack Obama, US trade with Asia is expected to receive a boost from the various bilateral free trade agreements being hammered out by the US government with Asian partners.

With input from key shipping companies, the federal government has been working to expand US exports as part of Obama’s National Export Initiative, which aims to double US exports in the next five years.

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