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Biden Calls for Action, Reveals New Steps to Cut Port Congestion

President Biden, speaking Sunday at the Global Summit on Supply Chain Resilience in Rome, revealed additional steps to help alleviate “delays and backlogs of goods…from automobiles to electronics, from shoes to furniture.”

Biden said he’s allocating additional funding to help American partners, as well as the United States itself, cut port congestion by slashing red tape and reducing processing times so ships can get in and out of ports more quickly.

“Second, I’m signing an executive order that will strengthen our management of the United States defense stockpiles for minerals and materials,” he said. “It’ll allow us react and respond more quickly to shortfalls in the industrial base…But like so many challenges today, it isn’t a problem any one of our nations can solve through unilateral actions.  Coordination is the key and the reason for this meeting…The best way to reduce current delays and build in greater resilience for the future is to work together across the entire supply chain, from raw materials to warehousing and distribution.”

Officials from the U.S., European Union, Australia, Canada, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Germany, Indonesia, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, South  Korea, Singapore, Spain and the U.K. met at the summit to discuss near-term supply chain disruptions and paths to long-term resilience.

Biden said the supply chain should diversified, “so that we’re not dependent on any one single source that might cause a failure,” secured against natural and manmade threats, including cyber and criminal attacks, like ransomware; transparent so that both government and the private sector can better anticipate and respond to shortages that may be coming down the pike, and sustainable, “to ensure our supply chains are free from forced and child labor, supporting the dignity and the voice of workers.”

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The President said solving the supply chain crisis is going to take government and private industry, labor unions and research institutions. That’s why, Biden said, he was directing the U.S. Secretaries of State and Commerce to chair a multi-stakeholder forum in the beginning of next year to bring all the key parties together with relevant officials from all of the summit governments to chart a path forward.

“We’re going to bring our shared attention to a vital issue that is impacting on all of our countries—supply chain disruptions,” Biden said. “Supply chains are something that most of our citizens never think twice about until something goes wrong…Ending the pandemic is the ultimate key to unlocking the disruptions we’re all contending with. But 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.”

He noted that supply chains are almost entirely owned and operated by the private sector, but that government can play a key role identifying supply chain risks and bringing the different pieces and actors together to address these vulnerabilities. Last month, he noted that his administration launched an early warning system to help get ahead of the global supply chain disruptions for computer chips, “which impacts so many industries in my country and all of yours.”

“Just a few weeks ago, we were able to facilitate an agreement with key unions, retailers and freight movers to begin operating two of the largest ports in the United States that account for 40 percent of the imports on the West Coast–the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, California–to move from five days a week, eight hours a day, to 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

As part of the ongoing efforts of the Biden-Harris Task Force on Supply Chain Disruptions, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) last week announced a strategic partnership to help facilitate innovative projects and financing opportunities for multibillion-dollar infrastructure improvements in the state.

The agreement allows California to expedite work on a network of related projects that collectively will help grow the economy, protect the environment, facilitate the movement of imports and exports, and bring supply chain processes into the 21st century to create resilience throughout the critical trade corridors of California and the U.S., including around San Pedro Bay and the Inland Empire.

California’s ports and infrastructure system is key to the country’s supply chain,” Newsom said. “Thanks to our collaboration with the Biden-Harris administration, this innovative federal-state partnership will help us fast-track those projects that will make our ports and infrastructure even more efficient. This partnership will help us jump-start and support multiple infrastructure projects to improve our supply chain, making sure goods get to where they need to go faster, cheaper and more environmentally friendly.”

Projects that could receive support through this agreement include port-specific upgrades, expanding capacity for freight rail, developing inland port facilities for increased warehouse storage, railyard and truck electrification, highway upgrades to improve truck travel times, grade-separated crossings to reduce the number of rail-street intersections and improve safety and efficiency, and land ports of entry to expand trade capacity and cross-border commerce.

Under the Emerging Projects Agreement, the Build America Bureau at USDOT will support the California State Transportation Agency in developing California infrastructure projects designed to improve the capacity and resiliency of the goods movement chain and will assist project sponsors in exploring innovative financing opportunities for billions in infrastructure investment, in part through the USDOT credit assistance programs.

“Our supply chains are being put to the test, with unprecedented consumer demand and pandemic-driven disruptions combining with the results of decades-long underinvestment in our infrastructure,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “That’s why this administration is working around the clock to address both near-term and long-term challenges to our supply chains, including investments such as those in the bipartisan infrastructure deal. Today’s announcement marks an innovative partnership with California that will help modernize our infrastructure, confront climate change, speed the movement of goods and grow our economy.”

In tandem with these longer-term solutions, the State of California and the Biden-Harris Administration are actively working on short-term solutions to address bottlenecks. Last week, Newsom issued an executive order that directs state agencies to identify additional ways to alleviate congestion at California ports.

“The Emerging Projects Agreement today provides the State of California with a foundation to build a comprehensive program of public and public-private projects that will help build a stronger, more resilient goods movement chain that grows the economy by exporting and importing more goods,” said the administration’s Port Envoy, John D. Porcari. “With today’s agreement, we will create an innovative federal-state partnership that will serve as a model for other states.”

California’s recently enacted budget includes $250 million for ports, $280 million for infrastructure projects at and around the Port of Oakland, and $1.3 billion over three years for zero-emission trucks, transit buses and school buses, including the deployment of more than 1,000 zero-emission port drayage trucks.