By Erica E. Phillips
May 14, 2018 5:44 p.m. ET
LOS ANGELES—Shipments from the biggest U.S. West Coast ports to Asia are picking up steam in a sign that companies are stepping up orders ahead of anticipated new trade restrictions.
Loaded container exports from the neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach jumped 12% year-over-year in April from a year ago to 306,503 20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, a shipping-industry measure of shipment volume. That made April the biggest month for exports at the largest seaport complex in North America since March 2017.
“Anxiety is driving the export trade,” said Jock O’Connell, an international trade economist based in California. China represents roughly half of the exports that move through Southern California’s ports, Mr. O’Connell said.
“Shippers want to get their goods on the high seas and to their final destinations before the gates close on U.S. exports,” he said.
Sharp rhetoric and threats of tariffs and other restrictions have been flying between the U.S. and China for several months, raising uncertainty for both Chinese buyers and American exporters about future demand.
Representatives from Beijing and Washington have been talking about potential solutions to avert a full trade war, with new discussions focused on a plan that would have China hold back tariffs and other restrictions on a variety of U.S. agricultural products while the U.S. gives Chinese telecommunications equipment supplier ZTE Corp. a reprieve from previously-announced sanctions.