Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said during a hearing on Thursday that China’s dominance in the pharmaceutical and other medical sectors has “critically endangered” both the U.S. healthcare system and the economy.
Rubio delivered his opening remarks before the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship that the Wuhan virus has underscored the need for improving America’s medical manufacturing sector. He said:
The spread of the coronavirus and its effect on small businesses occurs against a structural backdrop. The backdrop is that our economy is dangerously reliant on China for the production of critical goods, including goods and technologies needed to fight the coronavirus.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke to President Donald Trump this week to support efforts to invest in diversifying the country’s supply chain, especially in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. Rubio said that Trump agreed and that the administration is working on an executive order to address this concern.
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
The Florida Republican noted that America relies on China for producing many essential and consumer goods, including, “surgical materials, hospital robot components, basic chemicals, solar panels, electric motor engines, flat-panel televisions, air conditioning components, thermometers, and countless more.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, last year, China accounted for 88 percent of electric hand drill and saw imports, 87 percent of air conditioning machinery imports, 83 percent of hydraulic jacks and hoists, 72 percent for cell phones and parts, 58 percent of fork lifts, and 51 percent of lithium ion batteries.
We will hear from our witnesses today how for some medical goods, we are almost totally reliant on China.
As a result of this extreme reliance on China, the spread of the coronavirus began hurting American small businesses even before it hit our shores.
More than 40 percent of manufacturers in the American heartland have already reported supply chain disruptions.
The Food and Drug Administration has announced the first shortage of an essential drug.
Our assistance to small businesses during this time must consider this structural reality.
The problem is that our small business supply chain in these critical sectors has been weakened by two decades of off-shoring our productive capacity in these goods to China.
The absence of domestic businesses that can ramp up production to meet demand for these critical goods limits our ability to mitigate the worst effects of the spread of the virus.
The absence of a domestic supply of these goods means the spread of the virus will be worse, and its effects felt more sharply.
“It is 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,” Rubio said.
“Now, in the face of a pandemic, the absence of domestic capacity in critical medical sectors has critically endangered both the U.S. health care system and our economy,” he added.
Rubio said that Congress should get small businesses to produce domestically.
“We need to be empowering small businesses to bring their production of critical goods in-house, and getting American multinationals to buy domestically,” he said. “This is good for our public health, economy, and national security.”
Rosemary Gibson, the senior adviser for the Hastings Center, noted that China is the “dominant producer for ingredients” in drugs of the market.
Gibson added, “Generic manufacturing has collapsed in the United States, there are only two generic drugs in the West making drugs they announced last year they are dropping half of their products because they can no longer make them.”
Sens. Rubio and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) also bashed the idea of exposing federal military employees’ Thrift Investment Plan they use for funding their retirement.
We have reason to believe that they are moving in that direction. It’s just crazy, crazy. I know it’s not a term that you normally use to describe public policy but this is nuts. Taking the retirement funds of federal employees in the military to be invested in companies in China that actively working to undermine our national security, our healthcare security, and our economic security.
“It just can’t happen,” he added.