House Republicans are pushing to seal the deal on a host of policies to withdraw vital American industries from China in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The GOP-chartered House China Task Force issued a report on Wednesday that calls in part for Congress to enact the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act's bevy of policies. Those policies, many of which have already passed the House, aim at reducing U.S. supply chain dependency on the Chinese Communist regime, which the report labeled a risk to American safety and prosperity.
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"The next step is to get this NDAA, to get this defense bill—we sadly kicked the can on that to December—to get that over the finish line," Rep. Michael Waltz (R., Fla.), who helped draft the report, told the Washington Free Beacon. "I think it has a number of very good provisions in there. I think that's the most immediate legislative vehicle."
Republicans have been pushing for supply chain repatriation since late March, when coronavirus-induced hoarding in China contributed to the United States' struggle to provide adequate medical materiel to front-line doctors. The China Task Force's recommendations signal that Republicans and some Democrats are still eager to pass reshoring measures through the act and other legislation in the next session.
The Chinese National Development and Reform Commission's decision to unilaterally seize control of medical manufacturing and logistics "down to the factory level" made the need for supply chain repatriation clear, the report argues. The move allowed China to quintuple its production of protective masks, but also prohibited foreign companies from taking their medical products out of China—a major threat to western countries dependent on Chinese production to secure public health.
The task force report calls for legal changes to increase domestic production of medical goods and reduce dependency on China, including the identification of "drugs, biologics, vaccines, and critical medical equipment" as part of the United States' national security strategy. Another proposal would create federal incentives for companies to produce drugs' active ingredients in the United States—a major concern when China currently makes an estimated 40 percent of those ingredients.
The coronavirus crisis served as a "wake-up call" as to the risks of off-shoring medical supplies, Waltz argued.
"We found that we couldn't get access to PPE, that we couldn't get access to the drugs that we needed, and not only are they offshore, but they are controlled by an adversary," he said. "It's a critical national security issue we have to address."
Wednesday's report, however, goes even broader, calling for the repatriation of other industries on national security concerns. One such industry is the production of military-grade semiconductor chips and rare earth elements, over which China currently exercises substantial control.
Waltz told the Free Beacon he's optimistic that the NDAA and other repatriation bills will pass the House by a bipartisan majority. He noted that while Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) pulled support for the China Task Force, other House Democrats "who are really seeing the threat-reporting and what's going on" are sympathetic to the push.
Waltz fears that Joe Biden, if elected president, would undo Donald Trump's more standoffish approach to China, however.
"I worry that a Biden administration will carry forward … this old thinking that [if] we just continue to cooperate with China economically, eventually they'll transform politically and democratically," Waltz said. "I think we've shown that to be not the case, particularly under President Xi."