The Covid-19 or coronavirus outbreak has brought some much-deserved attention to American dependence on foreign medical and pharmaceutical supplies.
Many Americans are and should be alarmed to find out that the US is dependent on China and other countries for most of our medical supplies, including face masks, and our pharmaceuticals e.g. antibiotics, blood pressure medication, and almost all generic drugs.
Our dependence on China is especially alarming because of our adversarial relationship. China could wreak havoc on our health care system just by refusing to ship supplies to the US. They could also send us pills that are contaminated with chemical or biological agents.
Many of the active ingredients in pharmaceuticals (API) are sourced from China. Christopher Priest of the Defense Health Agency said, “The national security risks of increased Chinese dominance of the global API market cannot be overstated.”
China could “weaponize” pharmaceuticals and medical supplies
Rosemary Gibson, co-author of “China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine,” testified before Congress: “Medicines can be used as a weapon of war against the United States. Supplies can be withheld. Medicines can be made with lethal contaminants or sold without any real medicine in them, rendering them ineffective.”
A former central bank adviser, Li Daokui, suggested that China could curb its exports of antibiotics to the United States as a trade war retaliation tool. According to Politico, Li Daokiu said, “We are at the mercy of others when it comes to computer chips, but we are the world’s largest exporter of raw materials for vitamins and antibiotics. Should we reduce the exports, the medical systems of some western countries will not run well.”
Li Daokui raised the prospect of Beijing curbing its exports of pharmaceuticals as a countermeasure in the trade war with the US. By some estimates, America imports 96 percent of its antibiotics from China.
President Trump will issue an executive order to “buy American”
President Trump is working on an executive order to reduce or eliminate US dependence on other countries, some of them hostile, for our medical supplies.
According to The Daily Caller, “White House Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro confirmed Wednesday the administration is working on an executive order to eliminate the government’s reliance on foreign-made medical supplies.”
Reducing our reliance on China for essential medical supplies and drugs should have ended years ago, bur former administrations did not tackle the problem. President Trump brought the problem to light in his negotiations to get a better deal with China. So far, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies were exempted from the trade talks, but that could easily change, which is why it is good that the president signed this executive order.
Senator Marco Rubio said, “The coronavirus outbreak has been a wake-up call that we must combat America’s supply chain vulnerabilities and dependence on China in critical sectors of our economy.”
At yesterday’s lunch I asked @POTUS to support our efforts to invest in diversifying our supply chain, especially in pharmaceuticals & medical equipment.
He agreed & his team led by by Peter Navarro are also working on an EO to help address this. https://t.co/WlX7u158rV
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 11, 2020