Supply Chain Issues Could Last as Long as Pandemic: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg

By Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts is a reporter currently based in Turkey. She covers news and business for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States.
November 1, 2021 Updated: November 1, 2021

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Sunday said that supply chain issues impacting industries across the globe could continue to play out for as long as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Look, there are so many things that are still happening in our economy—distortions, disruptions, things in our supply chain that are affecting prices that are clearly a direct consequence of the pandemic. Which is why the best thing we can do for our economy in the short term, and to deal with these transitory issues, is to put the pandemic behind us,” Buttigieg told host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.

Buttigieg said that in the long-term, inflation and supply chain issues could be improved by better infrastructure allowing goods to move smoothly within the country and better pro-family policies like childcare, both of which are included in President Joe Biden’s trillion-dollar bipartisan infrastructure ​plan and social spending package.

He also touted more Americans getting fully vaccinated as another way to end the COVID-19 pandemic and improve the current economic situation.

“​For the long term, the best thing we can do about that is invest in our infrastructure. For the very short time, there are steps we can take in and around the ports that we think are helping​,” Buttigieg told Wallace.

“And in the medium-term, again, at risk of repeating myself, if we really want to see all of these disruptions end, we’ve got to end the pandemic. That’s what getting everybody vaccinated is all abou​t,” he said. ​​

Pete Buttigieg
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg listens to a question during a press conference following a tour of a Southside transportation hub in Chicago, Ill., on July 16, 2021. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Wallace noted that Biden announced on Oct. 13 that the Port of Los Angeles will begin operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week as White House and trade officials attempt to tackle the supply chain disruptions ahead of the holiday season.

However, since the announcement, the number of cargo ships waiting outside docks increased from 56 to 77, and at the Port of Long Beach 2,000 appointments for truckers went largely unused, Wallace explained, adding that economists at Goldman Sachs estimate that port congestion is not going to ease up until the second half of 2022.

“There are definitely going to continue to be issues, especially as long as the pandemic continues, right? If you have, for example, the third largest container port in the world in China shutting down because of a COVID outbreak in late summer, you’ll feel that in the fall here on the West Coast,” the transportation secretary said.

“Now, we’re taking the actions that we know that we can as an honest broker in the administration, phenomenal work by our ports envoy, working with different players to get the gates of the ports open longer, to work with the truckers, the rail players, we’re seeing expanded hours—all of that’s good​,” Buttigieg continued.

“​But let’s remember, we are talking about global imbalances between demand, which is off the charts right now, and supply, which is racing to keep up,” he added.

Biden on Sunday called on other world leaders at the G20 summit in Rome to take action to reduce supply-chain problems and prevent them from happening in the future.

“We have to take action now, together with our partners in the private sector, to reduce the backlogs that we’re facing. And then, we have to prevent this from happening again in the future,” Biden said. “Now that we have seen how vulnerable these lines of global commerce can be, we cannot go back to business as usual.”

Last week, officials at San Pedro Bay Ports said in a statement that they will be fining shipping companies at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach if their containers stay in marine terminals for too long.

Officials said the new fines were being bought in as part of an effort to “improve cargo movement amid congestion and record volume.”

Starting on Nov. 1, the ports will charge shipping companies that fall into one of two categories: containers scheduled to move by truck and containers moving by rail.

Companies will incur a fine of $100 per container, which will increase in $100 increments per container per day. The fees collected will be re-invested into programs aimed at enhancing efficiency accelerating cargo velocity, and addressing congestion impacts throughout the San Pedro Bay, officials said.

The new policy was developed in coordination with the Biden-Harris Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force as well as the  Department of Transportation and various supply chain stakeholders.

Katabella Roberts is a reporter currently based in Turkey. She covers news and business for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States.