Will geopolitics put pressure on the peak?

Political positioning on North Korea could jeopardise US/China trade

The new iPhone is launching. It’s created excitement among technophiles – but more crucially, it marks the high-tech launch season, which promises to keep aircraft full out of Asia in the coming month. 2017 has been strong for air cargo, with double-digit growth so far, setting the market up for a strong peak – the first in several years.

Traditionally, the peak peters out in November. Not this year. Bookings for December were locked in as early as April – capacity on transatlantic eastbound is expected to be very tight. A new, e-commerce peak is on its way.

But while the West is busy buying iPhones and shopping for Asian exports on Amazon, a cloud has formed which could shake up transpacific trade: increasingly bellicose talk from both North Korea and the US.

North Korean exports to China rose nearly 30% in the first half of the year; total trade between the two rose 10% to $2.65bn. That could spell trouble for China-US relations. US politicians are debating ‘secondary sanctions’, whereby countries that do business with North Korea will face restrictions, further complicating an already troublesome trade relationship between the world’s two largest economies, and muddying the prospect of further air freight growth.