How Biden plans to combat ‘longstanding weaknesses’ in American supply chain

Combating the global supply chain delays that are negatively impacting the U.S. economy topped President Joe Biden's agenda Wednesday, as he promised new efforts to restore the supply chain and tame inflation. White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Ships are sitting, goods aren't moving, and prices keep rising.

    That triple whammy topped President Biden's agenda today, as he promised new efforts to unsnarl the supply chain and tame inflation.

    White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor begins our coverage.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    It's a crisis of global proportions, from major bottlenecks at busy ports, to a lack of computer chips for auto manufacturers, and even a shortage of truck drivers to deliver all those goods.

    Today, President Biden met with major retailers, port executives, and union representatives to address some of the supply chain challenges triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • President Joe Biden:

    If federal support is needed, I will direct all appropriate action. And if the private sector doesn't step up, we're going to call them out and ask them to act, because our goal is not only to get through this immediate bottleneck, but to address the longstanding weaknesses in our transportation supply chain that this pandemic has exposed.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The bustling Port of Los Angeles will now pivot to operating 24/7. The move aims to help ease the massive shipping backlog there.

    Last month, the Port of Long Beach, California, made that same shift. Together, those two ports account for roughly 40 percent of all shipping containers entering the U.S.

    Gene Seroka, Executive Director, Port of Los Angeles: The quickest route from Asia to the United States and interior points is through Los Angeles. And that's what everyone is trying to maximize at this point in time.

    But it's like taking 10 lanes of freeway traffic and squeezing them into five.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Major retailers like Walmart and Target, as well as shipping companies like UPS and FedEx, are also expanding their hours to help move more cargo off the docks.

    They hope this will get cargo ships to shore faster as the busy holiday shopping season rapidly approaches. Trucking companies are struggling to keep up with increased demand.

    Wilford Williams drives trucks throughout the Midwest.

  • Wilford Williams, Truck Driver:

    I haven't had any real downtime or anything like that. I mean, as far as the company that I'm running with, they have been keeping me pretty busy.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Small businesses, like Ashley Collectibles in Omaha, Nebraska, are feeling the pinch.

  • Randy Ashley, Owner, Ashley Collectibles:

    In order to keep your shelves full, we have to order eight weeks in advance.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Tracie Jensen manages a toy shop in Kansas City, Missouri. She said it's been a logistical nightmare.

    Tracie Jensen, Store Manager, Brookside Toy & Science: There are certain things that are not coming, that will not be here. There's part shortages. There's wood shortages. There's problems with shipping, especially overseas.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    And the shortages and bottlenecks also mean higher prices. In September, the cost to transport shipping containers from Asia to the U.S. shattered a record high.

    According to the Freightos index, the median price to ship a standard metal container from China to the West Coast topped $20,000. That's nearly double what it cost in July. The skyrocketing costs have prompted major retailers to charter their own ships to transport goods.

    All that added cost is also pushing consumer prices higher. They rose nearly 5.5 percent in September over the previous year, to match a 13-year high.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.

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