WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that three of the largest U.S. goods carriers, Walmart, FedEx and UPS, will up their efforts to address supply chain issues after retailers have already begun warning that some products may not make it to the shelves before the holidays.
"Never again should our country and our economy be unable to make critical products we need because we don't have access to materials to make that product," Biden said in a speech. "Never again should we have to rely too heavily on one company or one country or one person in the world, particularly when countries don't share our values when it comes to labor and environmental standards."
Senior administration officials said on a call Tuesday evening that the carriers "will make commitments towards moving to 24/7 working during off-peak hours" at key ports in Southern California.
Biden met Wednesday with leaders of the Port of Los Angeles, the Port of Long Beach, California and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to discuss congestion at the ports and the extended hours. The White House also met with executives from Walmart, UPS and Home Depot about supply chain issues.
"The federal government will be a strong and willing partner in this effort in the near term but also in rebuilding a better system for the 21st century," the officials said. "We'll be working with stakeholders across the supply chain for a 90-day sprint to the end of the year to troubleshoot and alleviate many of the bottlenecks we can quickly address."
Logistical backups at shipping ports, driven in part by worker shortages and Covid outbreaks, have doubled the time it takes for some products to make their way from Asia to the U.S.
The delays, which have persisted for months, have sent retailers scrambling to address the bottlenecks, including by chartering their own private cargo vessels to get around the congestion, before the holiday shopping season.
The officials said that UPS and FedEx combined to ship 40 percent of U.S. packages by volume last year and that by taking this step, "they're telling the rest of the supply chain you need to move it, to let's step it up."
Other retailers, such as Target, Samsung and Home Depot, will also assist with the backlog, which "paves the way for smaller retailers to also get the goods from a 24/7 model," the officials said.
Top administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, have said consumers could continue seeing higher prices and product shortages through the rest of the year as the market works through supply chain bottlenecks and worker shortages.
The White House announced in June that it would establish a task force to address supply chain challenges in key sectors where "a mismatch between supply and demand has been evident."
The task force, which will focus on "homebuilding and construction, semiconductors, transportation, and agriculture and food," will be led by the secretaries of commerce, agriculture and transportation, the White House said at the time.