Biden cheers progress on supply chains: ‘Shelves are not empty’
President Biden on Wednesday credited his administration with helping to alleviate supply chain bottlenecks ahead of the holidays, saying shelves were stocked despite predictions about gifts being held up in the mail.
“Earlier this fall, we heard a lot of dire warnings about supply chain problems leading to a crisis around the holidays. So we acted,” Biden said during a meeting on supply chains with administration officials and business executives. “And the much-predicted crisis didn’t occur. Packages are moving, gifts are being delivered, shelves are not empty.”
Biden met on Wednesday morning, three days before Christmas, with members of his supply chain task force as well as executives from FedEx, Yellow Corp, the American Association of Port Authorities, GAP and Fastport.
The administration has sought to ease delays at ports by working to move major ports to 24/7 operations and allowing port authorities to redirect cost savings from other projects to address supply chain issues. The administration earlier this month also unveiled a plan to improve working recruitment and retention in the trucking industry.
Major retailers and shippers like Walmart, FedEx and UPS also agreed to 24/7 operations to help keep shelves stocked.
The National Retail Federation said that Americans are expected to spend 11.5 percent more during the holiday season this year compared with 2020.
During the meeting, FedEx CEO Fred Smith, who joined virtually, said the shipping giant moved 100 million packages in the first week after Thanksgiving, which he attributed in part to a major expansion of capacity. Smith said the biggest challenge for the company over the summer was a lack of labor, but he added that employment applications have started to pick up in recent weeks.
“The supply chain issues are not all solved but there’s a lot of effort underway to solve them and we’re optimistic that people will have a good peak season and most of Santa Claus’s products will be delivered to the consumers and the retailers have done a great job … of stocking their shelves,” Smith said. “We think the peak season is going to be a good one.”
Christopher Connor, CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities, described an improvement of freight movement off of ports, which he attributed to “extraordinary collaborative efforts.” Connor said the extended port operations were necessary and would be needed going forward across the entire supply chain.
“The dominoes are beginning to move in the right direction,” Connor said. “Continued focus and vigilance is an absolute.”
Biden said his administration would stay focused on smoothing out problems in the supply chain, specifically mentioning plans for the Transportation Department to announce millions in grants to improve the nation’s ports.
The president also said that addressing rising inflation would continue to be his “top priority.”
“We can and we will address prices by expanding productivity capacity in our economy so we move more goods to market, get more Americans working, encouraging more investments in innovation and making sure Americans see those benefits at the store and at the pump when they go to fill up their cars,” Biden said.