The global recession that the coronavirus pandemic is already triggering brings into sharp focus how vulnerable the United States is in certain strategic industries where it lacks adequate production capabilities of its own. For example, America depends on China for protective face masks, but China is mandating that virtually all production—including by U.S. companies that operate there—must be used in China, which is leading to a shortage of masks in the United States. In response, White House economic advisor Peter Navarro has called for strengthening so-called “Buy American” laws to make federal agencies purchase American-made drugs and medical devices.
But that is not the only type of critical industry the federal government should be concerned about. As Rob Atkinson writes in The Hill, it also must protect technologically sophisticated, traded-sector industries such as aerospace, semiconductors, advanced machinery and equipment, biopharmaceuticals, and software—because, if we lose those, we are unlikely to ever get them back.