President Biden on Wednesday announced agreements with the largest U.S. port, retailers, and freight haulers to fix some kinks in the twisted global supply chain that have fed inflation, caused random shortages of goods, and threatens to disrupt holiday consumer spending. Analysts called it a good first step but said there's only so much a U.S. president can do unsnarl a global logistical mess involving rampant consumer demand running headlong into Asian factory problems, shipping jams and container shortages, and pandemic-related labor issues throughout the supply chain.
The Port of Los Angeles agreed to join its sister port, Long Beach, and start operating 24/7, the White House said, while Walmart, FedEx, UPS, Target, and Home Depot committed to sending more drivers to the ports in the expanded hours to remove shipping containers clogging the ports and get the products to shelves. Labor unions agreed to supply the workers. The White House described the effort as a "90-day sprint" to clear a path for cargo.
"Today's announcement has the potential to be a game changer," Biden said. "I say potential because all of these goods won't move by themselves. 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 ships to factories and to stores to step up as well."
The global supply chain has been stressed throughout the pandemic, exposing weak links in the U.S., including outdated ports that operate much fewer hours than those in Europe and Asia. The upgrades Biden has been working to implement for months won't help get toys on shelves before Christmas.
"This is a good first step, although it is quite astonishing, and a measure of how severe this is, that it apparently takes the personal involvement of the president of the United States to get this obvious measure implemented," Bjorn Vang Jensen, vice president of global supply chain at Denmark's Sea-Intelligence ApS, tells The Wall Street Journal.
"The bottom line is that there are challenges — because of the demand, because of the systemic issues — that affect the supply chain," Federal Maritime Commission chairman Dan Maffei tells Politico. "They are not going to cancel Christmas but are maybe going to make it so that you can't get the exact toy you want for your kids."