President Joe Biden argued Wednesday that by working with shipping firms and unions, his administration helped prevent a feared shortage of gifts for the holidays.

Reeling from a fresh political wound -- that his signature social spending and climate bill was potentially dead in the water -- the US leader also touted the economic recovery and falling energy prices.

"We heard a lot of dire warnings about supply chain problems leading to a crisis around the holidays," Biden said.

But after working with business and labor leaders to solve problems "the much-predicted crisis didn't occur," he said during a meeting with his supply chain task force.

"Packages are moving. Gifts are being delivered. Shelves are not empty."

Global shipping snags and labor shortages have contributed to trouble finding goods and a wave of price increases that saw consumer inflation rise to its highest levels in nearly four decades and a large dip in Biden's approval rating.

The Biden administration moved in October to alleviate the biggest bottlenecks at the ports, and made fighting inflation a priority.

Major ports moved to 24-hour service, and the administration imposed a fee on shippers with cargo sitting on docks for more than eight days.

US President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force and private sector CEOs, in the South Auditorium of the White House in Washington, DC, on December 22, 2021 US President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force and private sector CEOs, in the South Auditorium of the White House in Washington, DC, on December 22, 2021 Photo: AFP / Brendan Smialowski

 

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach -- which handle 40 percent of the nation's containerized imports -- moved 15 percent more containers between January and November this year than 2018, the previous record, and slashed the number of containers languishing on the docks, according to the White House.

"Right now the number of containers moving through our ports is higher than ever," Biden said.

White House initiatives also focused on improving rail links and the trucking industry, moving to train more drivers and get goods from ports to stores more quickly.

"We also need to build resilience in our supply chains. We can never again be left vulnerable the way we were in the early days of Covid-19," Biden said.

Despite limited tools to directly address inflation, the president took credit for falling gasoline prices, after releasing supply from the government's oil reserve last month.

He said that prices in 21 states are now at their pre-pandemic averages over the past two decades. "That's good news for Americans hitting the road this week."

Japan, South Korea, India and Britain also released oil reserves to help ease supply pressures.

US national average prices for gas at the pump, which have fallen for six straight weeks, fell to $3.30 a gallon last week, 11 cents below the average a month before.