The White House says it met with retailer Walmart and shipping services FedEx and UPS, and the three corporations will have committed to working 24 hours a day, seven days a week” in order to resolve a global supply chain crisis that threatens to create major product availability issues just as the country moves into the holiday season.
The Biden White House warned, earlier this week, that a COVID-19-related domino effect has caused supply chain issues worldwide, and that holiday shopping might be more difficult than in years past.
“There will be things that people can’t get,” a White House spokesperson said. “At the same time, a lot of these goods are hopefully substitutable by other things. I don’t think there’s any real reason to be panicked, but we all feel the frustration and there’s a certain need for patience to help get through a relatively short period of time.”
On Wednesday, the White House announced that it was inking deals with private sector companies to try to expedite the process of docking and unloading cargo ships from Asia that are currently waiting for berths in California ports and to contribute to moving goods across the country.
“The supply chain is essentially in the hands of the private sector, so we need the private sector to step up to help solve these problems. Three of the largest goods carriers in the country, Walmart, FedEx, and UPS, will make commitments towards moving to 24/7, working during off-peak hours,” a White House spokesperson added Wednesday, per The Hill.
The White House added that they are also in discussions with Target, Samsung, and Home Depot to make the same commitment to 24/7 operation and that they are focused on keeping California ports, currently experiencing major backlogs, open around the clock.
But experts say that simply focusing on retailers and commercial shipping companies will do little to alleviate the endemic supply chain issues. Part of the problem appears to be Biden economic policies — which are driving an increase in inflation — and the current employment crisis, also connected to the White House’s domestic agenda.
According to the non-partisan Marketplace.org, the issues may also be the result of a COVID-19 “domino effect” that began in China. “[P]andemic shutdowns, labor shortages and other disruptions slowed parts of the shipping and logistics industry at the same time imports surged due to shifting consumer spending habits,” the outlet reported, adding that restrictions on passenger air travel, in turn, hampered the movement of cargo by air, which led to an increase in the number of trans-Atlantic cargo ships. That caused congestion at ports, made worse by dock labor shortages and a shortage of cross-country truckers.
And then there’s the cost of sending goods from Asia to the United States: “shipping a freight container from East Asia to North America’s West Coast more than quintupled from October 2020 to September 2021.”
Although the White House can press only a small sector of the supply chain, they hope that increased movement among retailers and commercial shippers will spark changes across the economic ecosystem.
“By taking these steps, they’re saying to the rest of the supply chain, you need to move too, let’s step it up,” the White House said.