With empty shelves at grocery stores and businesses and schools closing, it’s understandable that Americans are worried about what the future holds. As someone who worked alongside the professionals and civil servants who are helping manage this crisis, I hope to offer some small comfort to Americans hunkered down in their homes.
You may have seen an extraordinary woman named Ambassador Deborah Birx front and center at the president’s recent press conferences. I had the privilege to work with her for over two years and travel with her around the world implementing America’s global HIV program called PEPFAR.
At President Trump’s Rose Garden press conference on Friday, he and the Coronavirus Response team led by Vice President Pence and Dr. Birx laid out the clear steps they have taken and continue to implement to keep Americans healthy and safe. They also made clear that a plan is in place to ensure that Americans have access to testing capabilities and receive treatment should they test positive for COVID-19.
But as we get through this crisis, I think it’s important to be mindful of a bigger problem on the horizon. America will certainly survive the Coronavirus outbreak, but it is clear now that our nation’s reliance on China hamstrung the early days of our response and lays bare our overall over-dependence on the communist country in all aspects of our lives including pharmaceuticals, food, security and finance.
My point is this: Coronavirus is not the only Chinese import that should give us pause. Imagine a world in which America is at conflict with the communist government of China, and as a retaliatory action, they shut down access to the pharmaceutical drugs, food, and high-tech military products that are produced on their shores.
While we use diplomacy to prevent that scenario from ever occurring, America must be prepared to ensure the safety and health of the American people so that our supply chain is never held at the whims of a competitive government like China. The Coronavirus outbreak has highlighted these challenges, and it’s something I saw every day during my time in the Trump administration. For over two years I had the privilege of serving our nation at the U.S. Department of State. During my time there I served as both Senior White House Advisor and a leader of the Global AIDS Coordinator’s Office, as well as the Global Health Office. It is a job that took me nearly 200,000 miles around the world and gave me a front row seat to see what it takes to control a deadly epidemic.
Here’s some of what I observed: Currently the vast majority of active pharmaceutical ingredients that provide the underlying formula for common medications are produced in China. This presents an ongoing security threat to our nation and its people. With growing trade tensions with China, as well as the new global power competition between our two countries, we must ensure that America is never reliant on Chinese made materials related to our health and security. If the FDA, for example, were to require that the Chinese meet the more stringent U.S. standards for pharmaceutical ingredients, we could spur an investment in companies right here in America. Through a combination of application of U.S. standards and one-time tax reductions, we can incentivize companies in the agricultural, high tech and pharmaceutical fields to bring more production on American soil. The limits of communist China are on full display for the world to see, but we must ensure that America is never held hostage to their ineptitude.