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More Mexican Commoditization

August TV Imports From China Jumped 22.3% From July, but Tariffs’ Impact Hard to Discern

August TV unit imports from China increased 22.3 percent sequentially from July, and 37.5 percent year over year, said newly published Census Bureau statistics accessed Sunday through the International Trade Commission’s DataWeb tool. Observers will debate whether the August spikes were evidence of importers speeding product through U.S. ports to beat the 15 percent Section 301 tariffs on finished TV sets from China that took effect Sept. 1.

TV sets “were likely rushed before Sept 1, but I'm not sure how big of an influence it was” to the August import data, emailed Display Supply Chain Consultants President Bob O’Brien. “The tariffs were announced in early August, and by that time it was likely too late to put something on a boat in China and get it to the US before September 1,” said O’Brien Monday.

The U.S. imported 2.1 million TVs from China in August, compared with 1.7 million in July and 1.6 million in August 2018. The 22.3 percent sequential increase compared with a 14.4 percent month-over-month decline from July to August last year. The average value of a TV shipped here from China in August increased 19.4 percent year over year to $194.71 but was down 2.3 percent sequentially from the $199.24 average value in July.

August TV imports from Mexico surged 52 percent higher sequentially from July and 25.3 percent higher year-over-year to 2.3 million sets. The average value of a Mexican set was down 14.2 percent year over year to $383.50, and down 1.6 percent sequentially from July.

Mexico remained the production center for more premium-value TVs in the year’s first eight months, though shipments from Mexico took a sharp turn toward commoditization compared with a year earlier. The average value of a Mexican-sourced set declined 11.1 percent in January through August to $424.30, while the average Chinese set increased 8.5 percent to $200.94 and the average TV from Thailand was down 0.2 percent to $134.06.

The “general price trend” for TVs from Mexico this year “is a big decrease, because panel prices have dropped so much,” said DSCC’s O’Brien. He’s “inclined to agree” that the 14.2 percent year-over-year decline in August “also includes a mix shift to smaller or commodity sets,” he said. O’Brien thinks the argument can be made that more commodity-priced sets that usually flow from China were instead sourced from Mexico, perhaps due to the tariffs, he said.