Rubio, Gingrich: Coronavirus lays bare China's power over public health, economy – Here's what must happen now

As the coronavirus continues its spread across the world – and the United States – the American economy faces the prospect of widespread shortages for the first time since the 1970s. More than 40 percent of manufacturers in the American heartland have reported negative impacts on their business. Now, the Food and Drug Administration has announced the first shortage of an essential drug.

This reliance wasn’t some accidental byproduct of globalization but the outcome of a deliberate strategy by the Chinese Communist Party, which made biomedicine and high-end medical equipment a priority of its “Made in China 2025” plan.

The plan put in writing what had long been practiced by Beijing and further encouraged its companies’ predatory practices while providing short-term bargains for foreign companies’ presence in China.

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Now, America must make rebuilding our domestic supply chain a priority of its own.

First, the U.S. government should empower our robust private business sector to expand in order to meet new demand for medical supplies. Congress should cut taxes on manufacturers committing to new capital spending in America by making permanent the accelerated cost depreciation measures in the 2017 Republican tax law. New medical structures and equipment should be temporarily singled out for additional reductions.

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Second, agencies with lending operations like the U.S. Small Business Administration should make low-cost capital available to businesses seeking to solve their supply chain problems by bringing production in-house to America, or otherwise buying from American small businesses.

Third, as American businesses struggle with supply chain disruptions due to the coronavirus, the U.S. government must resolve any tax, regulatory or capital barrier preventing a new, trusted source from emerging.

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For years, China has enticed American multinational corporations with access to its markets in exchange for off-shoring and sharing intellectual property. Americans watched as Beijing captured critical portions of global supply chains, including in pharmaceutical drugs and medical equipment. Today, up to 80 percent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients in American drugs are sourced abroad.

It is unacceptable that China holds this much leverage over America’s public health and economy, both essential components of our national security.

Now, in the face of a pandemic, the absence of domestic capacity in critical medical sectors has critically endangered both the U.S. public health system and our economy. The inability to quickly increase the production of key supplies, such as surgical masks, medical gowns, respirators and pharmaceutical drugs limits our ability to mitigate the worst effects of the disease in this emerging crisis and in any future pandemic.

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It is unacceptable that China holds this much leverage over America’s public health and economy, both essential components of our national security. For this reason, we propose that the U.S. take action to expand our production capacity while global supply chains are in flux and the global economy teeters on the edge of recession.

In exchange for commitments by U.S. companies to invest in America and take care of their employees, Congress and the Trump administration should take whatever steps possible to enable the private sector to expand. Doing so will help stabilize the U.S. economy, potentially help save American lives, and strengthen our ability to mitigate the effects of disease. Most importantly, it would be a high-return investment in our long-term capacity and independence from China during a moment when supply chains are up for grabs.

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