Experts from the White House to Capitol Hill and all across the nation are uniting in a call for the United States to seriously re-evaluate its relationship with China in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Not only did Beijing’s secrecy prevent the world from properly preparing for the deadly outbreak, they say, but the aftermath has shown how dangerous it is for the U.S. to depend on China for some of its most crucial and essential supplies. Namely: pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.
Even if Beijing had been a trustworthy and dependable ally throughout the crisis (and they have been anything but), the pandemic would still show us how insane it is to depend on a foreign country for our medicine.
At a White House press briefing last week, Peter Navarro, President Trump’s chief economic adviser, said that it was essential for the U.S. to move away from a reliance on China and begin building up domestic pharmaceutical manufacturing resources.
“One of the things that this crisis has taught us, sir, is that we are dangerously overdependent on a global supply chain,” Navarro said. “Never again should we rely on the rest of the world for our essential medicines and countermeasures.
“What we’re learning,” he continued, “is that no matter how many treaties you have, no matter how many alliances, no matter how many phone calls, when push comes to shove you run the risk, as a nation, of not having what you need.”
Precisely. In fact, as much as we recognize the problem as it pertains to China, it’s not just about them, either. We also source quite a bit of our pharmaceutical supply from India, which is under a 21-day lockdown as we speak. Where are our assurances that drugs emanating from India and China will keep flowing regardless of nationwide lockdowns and international travel restrictions? Who could possibly believe such assurances at a time like this?
No doubt, critics will look at the costs of bringing pharmaceutical manufacturing back to the U.S. and warn that it will mean higher prices for consumers and prohibitive costs for the drugmakers. That may be true, but it’s something we’ll have to deal with. The current model is unsustainable.
Last month, you had Chinese state media suggesting (slyly) that Beijing could cut off America’s drug supply chain if President Trump kept blaming the pandemic on the CCP. Even if you believe that China would never follow through on that threat in a million years, the mere fact that they can make such a threat is warning enough.
We’re going to have to rethink a great many things after this crisis is over. Where we source our medicine, though, is something we need to rethink right now.