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CEA, Retailers Hail Port Pact

San Francisco – The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the National Retail Federation (NRF) praised the Obama Administration for helping to settle the nine-month-long labor dispute affecting 29 West Coast ports.

An estimated $1 trillion in cargo passes through the docks each year, including CE products from Asia, and shipping delays took a toll on holiday sales, merchants told TWICE.

In a statement, CEA president/CEO Gary Shapiro thanked the White House for its  leadership, and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker for bringing the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) together.

“Reopening the West Coast ports as soon as possible ensures the U.S. economy can recover from the nine-month standstill it has experienced,” Shapiro said. “We’re hopeful the agreement will be ratified quickly and the ports will open immediately for business.”

NRF president/CEO Matthew Shay similarly thanked the administration for taking the lead in the ILWU and PMA negotiations, and congratulated both groups for reaching agreement on a new labor contract.

“It is now time for the parties to quickly ratify the deal and immediately focus on clearing out the crisis-level congestion and backlog at the ports,” he said.

The work slowdown was keenly felt by the CE industry, which imports much of its product from Asia. Michael Schwab, co-president of national tech distributor D&H Distributing, noted last month during a TWICE retail discussion group that “The strikes in California really caused havoc for people who were waiting for goods to arrive late in the season. Inevitably there were containers that landed after Christmas unfortunately, because of the timing of everything. Anything coming by ocean freight was at risk if it wasn’t planned early enough to clear the harbor in time for the holiday.”

Gaming was particularly affected, noted Fred Towns, president of distributor New Age Electronics and a fellow panel participant. “Gaming was definitely delayed at the ports. A lot of products from the key brands were anticipating a big holiday season because they introduced the year before, and this was the season where they were supposed to have improved supply. The delays really hurt the holiday.”

 NRF’s Shay agreed that “The congestion, slowdowns and suspensions over the last few months have had a significant economic impact on the entire supply chain and those who rely on the West Coast ports to move their goods and products around the world and throughout the country. The agricultural, manufacturing, retailing and transportation industries have all suffered due to the nine-month long contract negotiations.”

Shay urged action to prevent “this nightmare scenario” from reoccurring, while Shapiro called on President Obama and Congress to develop “a long-term solution, legal or legislative, that will avoid these types of standoffs.

“Our nation cannot afford another prolonged ports slowdown or, worse, a full shutdown that would cost our economy billions of dollars a day,” he said.