“There are a lot of ‘Karens’ out there pooh-poohing that all the Amazon packages they want for Christmas and Hanukkah are not going to arrive on time [because of vaccine delivery],” said CNBC senior editor Lori Ann LaRocco during the FreightWaves North American Supply Chain Summit on Tuesday.
“That’s not true,” underscored LaRocca, the author of “Trade War: Containers Don’t Lie, Navigating the Bluster.”
With vaccine delivery “you have to have DOD [Department of Defense] clearance and a special pharmaceutical license. These are not your everyday drivers that are going to be moving this product.
“This [vaccine delivery] is already factored in. So, your Honey Baked Ham and your toilet paper are going to get there.”
Vaccine distribution is coinciding with an unprecedented spike in imports of Asian — primarily Chinese — goods purchased via e-commerce.
“There is more online shopping than ever this season. It’s so clogged. But you can’t blame the movement of the vaccine for that. Because the people moving the vaccine are highly specialized. They’re not moving the product we’re buying from the big-box retailers.”
And on top of all the other supply-chain complications, there’s a big storm brewing. In terms of vaccine distribution, she said, “One of the biggest things they’re looking at right now is the weather. You’ve got this big storm hitting the East Coast tomorrow. What we’re looking at right now is Mother Nature.”
US-China trade war
The surge of Chinese imports coincides with the ongoing trade war between China and the outgoing Trump administration.
Meanwhile, some ocean carriers have stopped taking some U.S. exports, including some ag exports, so that they can get empty containers back to China more quickly and refill them with all those e-commerce goods.
“The problem is that this is exacerbating the trade deficit. There is a value to what we are not exporting. In that end that is going to have an impact on our GDP,” said LaRocco.
“China is really winning the trade war, as well as [doing better with] what’s going on with the coronavirus,” she said.
“We’re losing the trade war. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. We’ve had a historic trade deficit with China, with President Trump, in this year alone.
“The problem is that China found other countries to trade with. We have been able to be replaced,” she said, pointing to soybeans as an example. “China can buy soybeans from Brazil. They can buy other products from other countries.”
Looking to next year, LaRocco wonders whether regulators will intervene on behalf of U.S. exporters. “I’ll be looking to see if the FMC [Federal Maritime Commission] will tell the carriers: You’ve got to start taking U.S. ag exports back,” she said.
She was also asked whether the trade war could subside after President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20.
“With Biden, this is not at the top of his agenda,” she responded. “The top of the agenda is winning the war against COVID and getting the shots in the arms. It’s about trying to kick COVID’s butt.”