by Bill Richardson
As my friend Joe Biden — our 2020 nominee to be the next president of the United States — said at the Democratic National Convention, we need to rebuild the nation’s core manufacturing base and create good-paying manufacturing jobs all across America’s heartland.
Having shared the debate stage with Joe when we both ran to be the party’s nominee in 2008, I saw first-hand his passion and commitment to rebuild our middle class and create millions of good-paying American jobs.
A hard-working man with blue-collar roots, the former vice president understands the importance of a strong industrial base that not only creates millions of jobs, but also allows the U.S. to maintain key manufacturing industries such as aluminum and steel. These great American industries produce essential parts that are used in medical equipment and ventilators as we fight the coronavirus and deliver critical inputs for body armor and fighter jets used by our troops, all while creating good union jobs.
The first wave of coronavirus served as a painful reminder that the U.S. needs to remain committed to bringing back industries critical to the U.S. supply chain. We need to maintain a strong industrial base that is not reliant solely on offshore production. Joe Biden knows this to be true.
In my years as one of America’s diplomats, I witnessed how easily conflict can arise. Vice President Biden and I also shared the view that while we as a country should always strive to remain out of conflict and aspire for international peace, national defense should never take a back seat.
One of the great lessons of the current pandemic is that we need core manufacturing industries right here in the United States. Whether it is aluminum, steel, personal protective equipment, or pharmaceuticals, our political leaders must ensure that we have the domestic supply chain capacity to address a crisis, grow jobs and protect our country.
The primary aluminum industry is a perfect example of an essential industry that we need to preserve, grow, and develop as we Build Back Better. In the last year alone, Canadian primary aluminum surged into the U.S. following a tariff exemption, and the U.S. industry was decimated. While American manufacturing workers were feeling the pain, Canada continued to stuff its aluminum industry with subsidies and surged volume far above historic norms in violation of its commitments to an ally; 700 unionized workers were just laid off in Washington state due to this surge.
In recent weeks, the Trump administration reimposed targeted tariffs on these Canadian aluminum imports to protect an industry critical to U.S. national security. I understand that some Democrats consider tariffs to be taxes, but it is important for us not to get swept up in Republican talking points.
As Democrats, we believe that taxes can incentivize behavior and address systemic flaws. That is what these tariffs do, ensuring a robust domestic supply chain that supports all American industries.
With the 2020 election rapidly approaching, I would encourage all Democrats up and down the ballot to support pro-American worker policies that sustain domestic supply chains and protect industries critical to that supply chain, including aluminum and steel. Indeed, manufacturing jobs are particularly important to communities of color, as a recent report from the Center for American Progress illustrates. An inclusive Democratic trade policy must take into account the effects of our policies on all Americans.
While I’m cautiously optimistic that a big blue wave is coming, only by supporting traditional Democratic trade policies that favor American workers will we win back the White House.
The onshoring of critical industrial capacity is the way for America to Build Back Better from coronavirus. By rebuilding the U.S. supply chain, we will benefit millions of hard-working men and women in America’s heartland, who are critical voting blocks in key swing states this November.
President Biden will lead our nation and economy into the modern 21st century by creating millions of new jobs and protecting good-paying union jobs in key essential U.S. industries such as aluminum and steel.
The 2020 Democratic takeover is just a few months away. By rebuilding America’s core manufacturing capabilities and supporting key industries, we will Build Back Better.
Bill Richardson is a former U. S. ambassador to the United Nations, secretary of energy under President Bill Clinton, and governor of New Mexico. Follow him on Twitter: @GovRichardson