Analysts at Drewry and Moffat and Nichol have claimed that growth in US imports is propping up global container trade, which otherwise is struggling.
Walter Kemssies, chief economist at Moffat and Nichol, told the TOC Americas conference on October 13, 2015, that consumers in the US will support global growth, as Chinese growth slows.
A report from Drewry backed this up, saying: “The US consumer is doing his/her upmost to lift what can otherwise only be described as moribund growth in world container traffic.”
Global container throughput, the report said, was only up 1.8% year-on-year in the first half of 2015 while US imports were up 4.3% in the first eight months. Traffic from Asia to the US is up by over 4% in the first eight months but Asia to Europe traffic is down by over 4%.
Drewry point out that the consumer confidence of American consumers, as measured by the Conference Board US consumer confidence index, has been rising steadily since it plummeted in 2009. In the aftermath of the 2009 crash, Americans have slowly been paying off their household debts, which has increased their confidence now to go out and buy goods and, to a lesser extent, services.
A Drewry comment said: “The rise of consumer confidence in the US following a period of financial repair is welcome news for container lines. Despite some lingering caution over the short-term economic outlook, the improving current conditions and spending patterns suggest that US container imports will continue to outshine other major trades.”
Kemssies added that he expected Europe to soon join the USA in supporting the global economy, as it now exits the “self-imposed” recessions it has put itself through.
Partly because of the US and Europe, he concluded that: “World trade growth is not going to decline. This is not the end of globalisation.”
He gave four reasons for this: the signing of free trade agreements, automation and investment in the supply chain lowering the costs of trade and the growing global population.
Speaking after Kemssies at TOC Americas, transport geographer Jean-Paul Rodriguez was less optimistic, saying that only half of the growth in container throughput was because of an increase in trade and that non-trade drivers of growth are fickle.
These non-trade drivers of container throughput growth include containerisation, an increase in the imbalance of trade and an increase in transhipment which he described as unstable and as a form of double-counting in this context.