Then-Citizen Donald Trump’s economic populism caused a lot of head-scratching among those of us within the D.C. Republican establishment when he emerged as a presidential candidate five years ago.
All through the Barack Obama years, one of the hallmark Bush administration successes we’d been bragging about was his expansion of international trade.
Based on Thomas Friedman’s classic "Golden Arches Theory" — that no two countries had ever gone to war with each other after both had gotten a McDonald’s — we were proud to brag that traditional conservative economic policy was creating a safer, more prosperous world.
Even President Obama was onboard with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Then the leading Republican starts spouting mercantilist rhetoric that sounded like something between Bernie Sanders and the Know Nothing Party. "Tut tut," we all clucked our tongues. "How silly is this talk of bringing home manufacturing!"
Fast forward to 2020, and President Trump has been proven irrevocably, irrefutably right.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a bright light on how dangerously dependent Americans are on China — which is as hostile a power as the Soviet Union was — for our medical imports.
The president understood well before COVID-19 that restoring a domestic supply chain is vital in ensuring a stable source of medicine, safeguarding national security, and bringing jobs home.
The outsourcing of America’s medical-production capabilities is even grimmer than most people realize. More than 70% of our pharmaceutical ingredients are manufactured overseas.
China produces 95% of U.S. imports of ibuprofen, 70% of U.S. imports of acetaminophen, and 45% of our penicillin imports, according to the Commerce Department.
We are basically asking our greatest international adversary to poison us.
During the Cold War, we never would have asked the Soviets to make our medicine for us.
It is well past time American drug-manufacturing was brought back home, or onshored. And it’s not just because of China. More than 80 countries, including some of our closest partners, have imposed export restrictions on medicines or medical supplies, Senior Trade Advisor Peter Navarro told the WSJ, describing the situation as William Golding's "Lord of the Flies."
To lead the charge on this, Navarro has tasked Kodak to begin manufacturing of key starting materials and active pharmaceutical ingredients. The company has earned a $765 million loan under the Defense Production Act (DPA), a a rarely used mechanism for expediting the domestic industrial base in a time of crisis that President Trump has activated.
When this goes online, Navarro told Fox Business, "25% of the active ingredients for the generics we need will be produced at Kodak’s New York facility."
This was news to all of us who thought that Kodak — a company most famous for film production – had not just survived the worldwide transition to digital photography but was thriving despite it.
If a company can pivot in the face of that kind of technological paradigm shift, it probably has the agility to handle the current COVID crisis.
But desperate to maintain relevance, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has jumped on the matter to attack Kodak for the imagined malfeasance of winning this award under shady circumstances.
"The loan was awarded to Kodak, through an opaque process and after an extensive and unprecedented lobbying effort, despite the fact that the company had no pharmaceutical manufacturing experience," she said.
The independent committee hired to vet the process unanimously found that Kodak had won the contract vehicle fair and square, despite Warren’s finger waggling.K
odak is actually better suited to lead this than many traditional pharmaceutical companies because unlike them Kodak doesn’t use Chinese-sweatshop labor.
The market — which rewarded Kodak stock with a 52%, one-day bump — agrees.
We are in unprecedented times and everyone is worried about the future. Millions have lost their jobs, the country has racked up trillions in debt to deal with COVID-19, and conflict with China is only accelerating.
It may seem like a risk to go with a company that doesn’t have a huge pharmaceutical track record, but Kodak has long been a leader in innovation with more than 20,000 patents from the US government.
Co-founder George Eastman even once invented a revolutionary new calendar to make business run more smoothly.
Though it clashes with long-time conservative dogma on trade policy, onshoring is essential both for this crisis and the next one.
President Trump was right before; he’ll be proven right on this score as well.
Jared Whitley is a long-time politico who has worked in the U.S. Congress, White House, and defense industry. He is an award-winning writer, having won best blogger in the state from the Utah Society of Professional Journalists (2018) and best columnist from Best of the West (2016). He earned his MBA from Hult International Business School in Dubai. Read Jared Whitley's reports — More Here.
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