Wando Welch container terminal

The number of imported cargo containers moving through the Port of Charleston increased by more than 15 percent in October, a sign that overseas customers are shipping items early to avoid increased tariffs set to take effect in January. Provided/State Ports Authority

Imports at the Port of Charleston and other East Coast seaports are surging as overseas shippers apparently are looking to get ahead of additional tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump.

Containerized imports totaled 92,947 cargo boxes at the Charleston port last month — a 15.1 percent increase over the same month a year ago and 16 percent more than in September.

Imported containers have increased 10.1 percent during the first four months of the fiscal year, which started July 1.

The top import commodities include auto parts, such as engines for the BMW automobile plant in Spartanburg County, as well as furniture and tires. All of those categories are subject to tariffs on Chinese goods that are set to increase to 25 percent, from their current rate of 10 percent, in January.

Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the State Ports Authority, said that in addition to a strong economy, there is "increasing evidence" that the import spike is due to customers advancing shipments to avoid tariffs set to take effect in January.

Ports in Virginia and Georgia also reported double-digit import growth in October and Panjiva, a global logistics consultant, said shipments to the United States reached an all-time high last month. The more than 1.13 million U.S.-bound containers in October was about 11 percent higher than a year ago and represented the fastest monthly growth since March 2014.

While imports have been on the rise, exports have slowed in Charleston. Containers bound for overseas markets were down 1.4 percent in October following a 15.1 percent drop the previous month. Through the first four months of the fiscal year, exports have declined 1.1 percent.

War is swell

The United States is winning the trade war, according to a new report by the European Network for Economic and Fiscal Policy Research.

The report shows that a 25 percent increase in tariffs imposed on roughly half of the Chinese-made goods sent to the U.S. will lower the price Chinese manufacturers can get for their products by 20.5 percent. At the same time, U.S. consumers will pay just 4.5 percent more for those products.

"Contrary to public opinion, the greatest share of the tariff burden falls not on American consumers or firms, but on Chinese exporters," the report states.

The research group says the U.S. government "implemented an optimal tariff strategy" by targeting Chinese goods that have minimal impact on American consumers and businesses. The result: Chinese firms pay about 75 percent of the tariff burden, and the tariffs decrease Chinese exports of affected goods to the U.S. by about 37 percent.

It all adds up to a net gain of $18.4 billion for the United States, although the researchers warn that further tariffs might target products that would have a greater impact on American consumers. They also say low-income Americans are being hurt more by the existing tariffs because they purchasse a greater share of cheap Chinese imports.

The report only considers tariffs the U.S. government has imposed on Chinese products and doesn't factor the impact of retaliatory tariffs by China on American-made goods.

The research group includes economic experts from seven European countries and the ifo Institute, one of Europe's leading economic research centers.

S60 no show

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With the S60 sedan about ready to show up in Volvo Cars dealerships around the country, you might think the automaker would be showing off its newest vehicle at this week's Los Angeles Auto Show.

Think again.

Volvo executives will be attending the show, but they won't be bringing any cars along.

"We are trying to shift our focus from doing what we have done for the last 90 years," Marten Levenstam, Volvo's senior vice president of corporate strategy, said in explaining why there will be no cars on the company's display stand.

"Now is the time to really do different things in a different way," Levenstam told  Automotive News. "This is just one example of that."

Volvo — which makes the S60 at its $1.1 billion manufacturing campus near Ridgeville — previously announced it would not attend next year's big auto show in Geneva and that it's cutting back on traditional marketing, like automaker conventions.

Instead of cars, Automotive News reports, Volvo will use its display area for interactive demonstrations of its autonomous driving technologies, its Care by Volvo car subscription service and other products.

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_