Recent Trade Imbalance Strains American Exports : Planet Money : The Indicator from Planet Money The transportation industry has a bottleneck right now, not only with imports, but also exports. Still many container ships are leaving American shores empty. Why is that?

Too Much Import, Too Little Export

Too Much Import, Too Little Export

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David McNew/Getty Images
(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
David McNew/Getty Images

The U.S. trade deficit reached over 75 billion dollars in June. There are more imports than exports and transportation industry bottlenecks are making it worse. Container ships have to wait for days to unload cargo, railyards are overflowing with cargo, trailer trucks are stuck on the roads, and warehouses are filled with goods.

And the enormous shipping rate difference between Asia-North America routes means cargo ships are leaving American ports empty. That's because there's so much demand for imports from American consumers right now, shipping companies can charge substantially more to bring goods from Asia to the west coast than the other way around. So it's more profitable to race back to Asia with an empty container.

Bob Sinner is a soybean exporter from North Dakota. He says geography is a major contributor to all the shipping delays. Import containers are unloaded in metropolitan areas, whereas exports are often from rural regions of America, especially agricultural products.

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