Members of Congress came together last month for a digital conference to address supply chain issues exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Republican Senators Marco Rubio (FL) and Josh Hawley (MO) joined Democratic Senators Tammy Baldwin (WI) and Sherrod Brown (OH) on Thursday for the Alliance of American Manufacturing’s “Crisis Brings Consensus” digital conference. The takeaway from the conference was clear–there is bipartisan agreement to bring America’s critical manufacturing home.
“The Coronavirus pandemic and the crisis it has caused has really opened people’s eyes to our dependence from a production, manufacturing perspective, on China,” Hawley said. “I haven’t been in the Senate very long… but I’ve heard more talk in the last four weeks about the need to bring back production in this country than I have in the last year and four months put together.”
The two-hour conference discussed the U.S. response to the pandemic and why it has been so difficult to maintain a steady supply of critical personal protective equipment (PPE) and other necessities. Other professionals joined the conference to explain how future economic and security threats should be treated moving forward.
The Republicans discussed reshoring the critical supply chain by possibly enacting local content requirements or tax incentives to get manufacturers to operate domestically. As the new acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Rubio is focused on balancing America’s trade relationship with China. He mentioned a possible coalition of nations who have been similarly impacted by China’s supply chain dominance.
“I think in order for this to work, we are going to need an international coalition of like-minded nations. Countries in Europe and Asia, whether they’re saying it publicly or not, are all seeing what we are firsthand,” said Rubio. “I think it’s an important opportunity for us to partner with like-minded nations all across the world and come up with a post-pandemic model for global economics–one that does not have a supply chain so heavily invested in one single place.”
All four senators strongly agreed on the need for Buy America provisions to give companies incentive to reshore–especially in medical, defense and pharmaceutical supplies. A topic that has been largely discussed during the pandemic, active pharmaceutical ingredients (API’s) are a top priority when it comes to reshoring. About 80 percent of API’s used to make drugs in the U.S. are said to come from China.
Senator Baldwin also addressed loopholes on country-of-origin labeling laws when it comes to online purchases. She recently introduced the Country Of Origin Labeling Act to make it so that e-commerce sites are required to list the origin of their products.
“Any time that the things you want done in law are the same on both sides–maybe for different reasons–that’s when you see some pretty amazing things,” mentioned Senator Rubio. “Even if there are two different motivations behind it.”
Also joining the Members for the event were Drew Greenblatt, president and owner of Marlin Steel Wire Products; Emily de la Bruyere, a cofounder of the research firm Horizon Advisory; Roxanne Brown, international vice president at large of the United Steelworkers; and Kim Glas, president and CEO of the National Council of Textile Organizations.