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Biden’s Challenge: Globalism Does Not Work

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bidenThe early months of the Biden Administration have served to vindicate one Trump Administration policy after another. From the successful vaccination effort built on the foundation of Operation Warp Speed, to confirmation that Democrats lack any viable alternative approach to China, to the disaster they have created on the southern border, the wisdom of the prior administration’s approach has quickly become evident by contrast.

On no issue is this more true than the one President Trump ran and won on in 2016–an America First approach to trade, manufacturing, and international security. In 2016, Hillary Clinton mocked  Trump’s criticisms of free trade as economically illiterate and foolish. Free trade made everyone richer, Clinton argued, claiming that China was a partner, not a threat. When Clinton suggested that the growth of Chinese wealth and power would naturally bring with it a growth of freedom within China, she was merely speaking the conventional wisdom of the global elite. It was this conventional wisdom that Donald Trump rejected to the outrage of a Washington establishment which has now been forced to concede that he was right and they were wrong.

The Biden Administration, which exemplifies establishment conventional wisdom in foreign policy, has kept Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods in-place, a recognition that the policy worked. And after having spent four years denouncing protectionism as “economically illiterate” and suggesting that tariffs on China merely hurt American farmers, Joe Biden recently threatened to start a trade war with Great Britain if London dared to levy taxes on American technology firms.[1]

All of these clear realities–from trade to the border to vaccines–add up to a ringing validation of the great insight of the Trump presidency. The last four years have demonstrated beyond any doubt the absurdity of unchecked globalism. From COVID-19 supply chains to the recent blockage of the Suez Canal, the past year in particular has proved that the choice during times of global crisis is likely not to be between buying American or buying cheaper foreign products, but between making goods in America or not having them at all.

The lesson that countries will always prioritize the interests of their own populations over binding legal contracts was evident last spring when it became almost impossible to locate face masks or other personal protective equipment in stores, and many state governors were forced to resort to PR stunts by celebrities for supplies–as, for instance, when the New England Patriots sent a plane to China to bring back face masks. Often, supplies obtained from foreign nations in the peak of the crisis turned out to be of such poor quality that they were useless.

The Trump Administration took the lessons of early 2020 to heart when designing Operation Warp Speed: they ensured that vaccine supply chains would be located within the United States and involve American companies, even if it meant higher costs. The result has been the most successful vaccine rollout in history. By contrast, Canada and Europe are still struggling to source vaccine supplies.

Yet it is not only COVID-19 that has demonstrated the perils of globalism and the imperatives of domestic manufacturing over the past year. Anyone who has tried to purchase a new video game console for their children or grandchildren has found it almost impossible to locate a PlayStation 5 in stores. It’s not just that they are the latest hot-ticket items. In fact, the world is currently undergoing a global microchip shortage, the result of the decision of the U.S. technology industry to cede an effective monopoly on microchip manufacturing to a single Taiwanese company, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd, or TSMC. TSMC’s inability to keep pace with demand means that everything from new computers to cell phones to game consoles are often impossible to find. Automobile factories around the world have been forced to shut down due to a shortage of electronic parts. [2]

The microchip and vaccine shortages had reached crisis levels even before the tanker Ever Given ran aground in the Suez Canal, choking off nearly a quarter of global trade for over a week.  Energy prices quickly skyrocketed, again confirming the prudence of a policy of energy independence pursued by Republicans but already reversed by the Biden administration.

These experiences should clearly demonstrate the potential for much more severe disruptions in the future, which could last for much longer periods of time. The question now is whether Biden will learn from the lessons of his first few months that “America First” was more than a slogan–it was a necessary acknowledgment of reality. To be truly secure, America’s supplies of vital products, whether they be masks, vaccines, energy, or microchips, must be under American control. Donald Trump knew that. Now everyone else has to acknowledge that he was right.

[1] Biden administration threatens tariffs on UK goods in ‘tech tax’ row – BBC News

[2] Semiconductor shortage halts auto factories – The Washington Post

Taiwan Semiconductor And The Auto Semiconductor Shortage: Why We’re Here (NYSE:TSM) | Seeking Alpha

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