The Journal Gazette
Thursday, February 25, 2021 1:00 am

Biden boosts supply chain

Manufacturing jobs, security behind order

JOSH BOAK and TOM KRISHER | Associated Press

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday intended to boost manufacturing jobs by strengthening U.S. supply chains for advanced batteries, pharmaceuticals, critical minerals and semiconductors.

The United States has become increasingly reliant on imports of these goods, a potential national security and economic risk. However, Biden will also look to work with international partners to ensure a stable and reliable supply chain.

“These are the kinds of common sense solutions that all Americans can get behind,” Biden said at a White House ceremony. “It's about resilience, identifying possible points of vulnerabilities in our supply chains and making sure we have the backup alternatives or workarounds in place.”

White House officials emphasized the order would help to create manufacturing jobs, a promise made by past presidents with decidedly mixed results. There are 12.2 million manufacturing jobs in the United States, down from 17 million in 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The order was distinctly bipartisan, as Biden met with Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the Oval Office on Wednesday before the signing. It included sectoral reviews to be completed within one year for defense, public health and biological preparedness, information communications technology, energy, transportation and food production.

During the last year, the fragility of vital supply chains has been revealed repeatedly. The novel coronavirus outbreak led to an initial shortage of masks, gloves and other protective medical equipment. Automakers in the United States and Europe are now dealing with a shortage of computer chips.

Nearly every major automaker that produces vehicles in the U.S. has cut production because of the shortage by canceling shifts, slowing assembly line speeds or temporarily closing factories. Most automakers have tried to limit the cuts to slower-selling vehicles.

The chip shortage has cost the global auto industry the production of about 1 million vehicles, according to IHS Markit. The analytics firm expects the chip crisis to hit bottom toward the end of March, with supplies constrained into the third quarter.

Moody's predicts that the chip shortage will cost Ford and General Motors about one-third of their pretax earnings this year. It also expects electric vehicle maker Tesla to be affected, although less than GM and Ford.

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