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Abe Eshkenazi, chief executive officer of the Association for Supply Chain Management, discusses the expected impact of the incoming Biden Administration on international trade, reshoring and supply-chain sustainability.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, global supply chains were functioning relatively smoothly, meeting customer expectations for rapid and efficient delivery. The challenge now is to defeat COVID-19 so that companies can return to that state of affairs — albeit in a significantly transformed business landscape.
Defeating the virus will require a global effort, with attention paid to the perspective of trading partners, Eshkenazi says. The key is to avoid a repeat of actions and counter-actions that end up restricting trade flows and access to markets. “We need to have a broader conversation about the global supply chain, not just a U.S. discussion,” he says.
Eshkenazi sees the potential for negotiation of productive free-trade agreements. At the same time, U.S. manufacturers will be reconsidering their sourcing strategies, especially when it comes to the production of essential items such as ventilators and personal protective equipment. Whether that extends to a wholesale reshoring of production back to the U.S. remains to be seen. “The challenge has to be discussed industry by industry,” he says.
At a time when supply-chain resilience and agility are priorities, the issue of sustainability has taken something of a back seat. But Eshkenazi says companies must engage in serious discussions about the topic at the board level, focusing on human rights and the elimination of illegal labor practices.
In the short term, the focus will be on creation of a supply chain that can deliver a COVID-19 vaccine. “The healthcare industry will get us out of this pandemic,” Eshkenazi says, “and the supply chain will get our economy going again.”
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