Commerce secretary says supply chain fix will take “a little bit of time”

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Washington — Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo predicted Sunday that it could be some time before supply chain bottlenecks are alleviated, even as the Biden administration works to address the backlogs at ports on the West Coast.

In an interview with “Face the Nation,” Raimondo said the supply chain issues are temporary, but a “direct result” of the COVID-19 pandemic, as some industries were forced to lay off workers and Americans were told to stay in their homes to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. 

“Last year during COVID, we shut our economy down. You know, I was the governor at the time. We shut down Rhode Island's economy. We have never seen that before,” she told “Face the Nation.” “So that meant factories closed. People went home. You can't just turn the economy back on overnight. So, it takes a little bit of time. I will say we are making progress.”

To help relieve the disruptions, President Biden announced earlier this month that the Port of Los Angeles would be open around the clock to relieve the congestion there and at the Port of Long Beach. Together, the two ports account for 40% of all shipping containers entering the U.S.

Raimondo acknowledged that there are “backups” at the Port of Los Angeles despite the 24/7 operation, and warned “this isn't something that can be fixed overnight.”

“Fundamentally, supply chains and logistics are run by the private sector. People say to me, ‘Will Christmas gifts be delivered?' To which I say, ‘Call FedEx,'” she said. “You know, that isn't what the government does. What we are doing, and the president is committed to this, we're using every tool in our toolbox to be supportive, to help to unstick the ports.”

Many industries are also battling a shortage of semiconductors, or microchips, that are in many electronic devices, including smartphones, cars and appliances. To help address the chip shortage, Mr. Biden included in his $1.75 trillion social policy and climate framework new incentives to bring manufacturing of semiconductors back to the U.S.

“This is a fund that will come to the Department of Commerce. It's a $52 billion set of incentives to rebuild the domestic supply here,” Raimondo said of the so-called advanced manufacturing investment credit. “The day after Congress passes this it can come to us and we can get to work.”

Raimondo said the Commerce Department is working to incentivize domestic production of semiconductors after much of it was moved to Asia.

“We want to make chips in America, so we are incentivizing companies to do that, creating jobs every step of the way,” she said, adding that the Biden administration is not mandating domestic production of the semiconductors.

Raimondo also rejected the suggestion that implementation of COVID-19 vaccine mandates be pushed back after the holiday season to ensure there are no labor shortages stemming from workers who don't want to comply.

“It would be a mistake,” she said. “You know, this year we're on path to have the strongest GDP growth in decades. We had a blip in the third quarter. Why? Delta variant. The quicker everyone gets vaccinated, the better our economy will be back on track, the quicker everybody gets back to work.”

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