Biden talks to Walmart, UPS, Target, other CEOs on supply issues

U.S. President Biden speaks during a news conference, in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden spoke on Tuesday with the chief executives at Walmart Inc, United Parcel Service Inc, FedEx Corp and Target Corp to discuss speeding up deliveries and lowering prices for consumers, according to a White House official.

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“During the conversations, President Biden received updates from these private-sector leaders on the efforts they’re taking to speed up throughput in our entire goods movement supply chain and discussed how shelves will be well-stocked this holiday season,” the official said, without providing extensive detail.

Biden, facing political pressure over rising U.S. prices, has been organizing an effort to clear transportation bottlenecks, ease semiconductor shortages and pass a spending bill that officials hope will ease long-term inflation.

“Target CEO Brian Cornell shared that we are ready to deliver a great shopping experience for guests this holiday season,” the company said in a statement, adding its inventory levels are well above last year’s and that it is processing more containers at night.

The other companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment about their conversations with the president.

Concerns about labor and goods shortages have grown ahead of the U.S. holiday season, when travel and gift buying normally create jobs for workers and profits for retailers.

Last month, one senior White House official told Reuters that “there will be things that people can’t get,” come Christmastime.

Experts have also said the problems, which were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic closing factories and putting people out of work globally, were unlikely to be solved quickly.

The shortages have helped lift consumer prices by 5.4% over the 12 months through September, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Due to inflation, most workers’ real hourly wages sagged 0.8% over the same time frame.

Administration officials said on Tuesday they were working to quickly put to work some of the provisions in the $1 trillion infrastructure package that Congress approved last week to clear backlogs at U.S. ports that have kept some goods from store shelves.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)