Damping the Benefits of Globalization

In one of the few sensible pushes members of the Biden administration is making, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, in her meetings in Seoul, Republic of Korea, pushed for the US and our friends and allies to shift away from dependency on the People’s Republic of China for supplies and instead to friend-shore the supply chain: get the supply components and raw materials either domestically or through trade with friends and allies.

Friend-shoring is about deepening relationships and diversifying our supply chains with a greater number of trusted trading partners. The purpose is to lower risks for our economy and theirs[.]

There are, of course, criticizers of such a change in emphasis.

…some economists have cautioned that such a shift could damp the benefits of globalization and lead to higher prices.

But this is to misunderstand, or to ignore, the real risks to globalization: dependency on our enemies for Critical Items in our supply chain. The PRC, for instance, already has attempted to corner the market on rare earths, and it already has attempted to use that monopoly to coerce Japan by embargoing rare earth sales and shipments to them. Russia is already restricting supplies of natural gas to Europe.

Walking away from the PRC, and Russia, and our other enemies on supply chain matters may or may not lead to higher prices; most likely, higher prices will be limited to the period of transition away from our enemies.

The higher cost, though, from continuing dependency on enemy nations is to our national security and to the uncertainty premium resulting from those enemies engaging in restricting or outright embargoing critical supply items in order to coerce.

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