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Vietnam’s Emergence

Smartphone, Monitor Imports Spiked in September, Likely Evidence of List 4B Tariffs’ Impact

September imports of smartphones and computer monitors from China spiked significantly from August, said Census Bureau statistics accessed through the International Trade Commission’s DataWeb tool. The surge was likely evidence of importers’ rush to beat the 15 percent List 4B Section 301 tariffs scheduled to take effect Dec. 15 on those products.

Imports of Chinese-sourced laptops and tablets, a third large consumer tech category also facing imminent List 4B tariff exposure, declined marginally in September from August, bucking the trend in smartphones and monitors. That Chinese laptop and tablet imports spiked 38 percent earlier in the summer (see 1908050018) and filled U.S. supply chains is a possible explanation why importers didn’t rush to bring in extra product during September.

The U.S. imported just under 20 million smartphones from all countries in September, a 19.8 percent increase from August, said DataWeb. The rise in shipments included a 44.1 percent month-on-month surge in Chinese smartphone unit imports. to 15.8 million. The September spike brought with it a skew toward higher-value models. The average customs value of a Chinese smartphone imported in September was $327.62, a 48 percent increase from the average Chinese phone shipped here in August.

There existed more supply-chain diversity in September smartphone imports than a year earlier, said DataWeb. China still commanded about 79 percent share of U.S. smartphone imports in September, but U.S. smartphone imports from Vietnam jumped 28.1 percent from August to 4.5 million. Vietnam shipped 72 percent more smartphones to the U.S. in September than it did in September 2018.

Vietnam was 22.6 percent of U.S. smartphone imports in September, a 10-point increase from the same month a year earlier, said DataWeb. Vietnamese shipments skewed toward the low end in September. The average Vietnamese smartphone shipped here was worth $155.42 in customs value, 53 percent lower than its Chinese counterpart.

September 2018 smartphone imports increased from a month earlier but at a fraction of the month-over-month spikes this year, said DataWeb. Smartphone imports from all countries jumped 10 percent in September 2018 from a month earlier, about half that of this year. Shipments from China were up 14.4 percent month to month last year, about 30 points lower than this year's increase. Month-to-month Vietnamese smartphone imports were up only 1.1 percent last year.

China controlled 95 percent of computer monitor imports to the U.S. in September, said DataWeb. Its September shipments climbed 30.6 percent from August to 3.5 million units. That September 2018 monitor import growth was low compared with August 2018 when threatened tariffs were not in play on those goods is additional evidence that the List 4B tariffs likely played a role in this year’s sequential monthly surge. Similar trends were apparent in smartphone imports.

Laptop and tablet imports from all countries declined 1.4 percent in September from August, said DataWeb. Chinese shipments -- 93 percent of the total -- declined 1.6 percent month on month to 7.9 million units.