Lawmakers Highlight Supply Chain Concerns Amid Pandemic
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House lawmakers recently pointed to the need for enhancing the manufacturing environment for products and equipment to avoid future disruptions along supply chains affected during the coronavirus pandemic.
At a House Ways and Means hearing in July, policymakers on the tax-writing panel emphasized the urgency to ensure the reliable and safe flow of goods across the country’s intricate freight sector.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), chairman of the subcommittee on trade matters, indicated he intends to help push a robust and bipartisan effort on trade and manufacturing policies that lead to versatile supply chains.
“In the conversations that have been developing around the topic of re-examining supply chains and the relationship between trade and manufacturing at home, there has been a lot of excitement regarding tax incentives, ‘Buy American’ policies, or applying additional tariffs,” Blumenauer told colleagues July 23. “In our examination, let us not fixate on one particular tool to the exclusion of others.
“Meaningful solutions will require us to work together, to be thoughtful, strategic and creative,” he continued. “They will require our best tools and ideas to work in concert, likely across different policy areas. Without prejudging what those specific tools may be, I am confident that trade policy is an important part of the answer.”
Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida, the panel’s top Republican, highlighted the Trump administration’s aim at deregulation as a model for addressing economic concerns. As he put it, “This pandemic has shown us how important it is for us to be medically independent and to have supply chains that are reliable and flexible, no matter how they are structured. If we want stronger and more resilient supply chains here, then this must be the best place in the world to do business.
“The pandemic has showcased the urgency for having vital medical products like [personal protective equipment] and pharmaceuticals available quickly and reliably. We cannot rely on our adversaries, like China,” added the ranking member.
Various experts and observers note the coronavirus has disrupted myriad supply chains causing certain prices to surge in the marketplace. The pandemic also put a spotlight on the economy’s reliance on essential workers, such as truckers and delivery drivers.
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Erica Fuchs, professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, told House lawmakers that strategic investments in infrastructure projects have the potential of revitalizing manufacturing sectors.
“By infrastructure I mean not just roads, bridges, transit networks, water systems and dams, but also energy, communications, manufacturing and data infrastructure necessary for all of those,” the professor said.
“In the same way that we need to build domestically the products that global markets want and only we can make, our infrastructure investments need to be for the infrastructure of the future,” she said. “Transportation, transit and urban infrastructure should be designed to enable the safe and equitable introduction of driverless vehicles and smart city systems, and the matching large-scale interconnected data infrastructure for security, privacy, resilience and machine learning on that data.”
On the Senate side, Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, chairman of the tax-writing Finance Committee, echoed the supply chain-centric concerns: “We cannot allow our supply chains to rely so heavily on China, and I look forward to working with my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to discuss how we can diversify our supply chains and increase our domestic manufacturing capacity.”
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