Earlier this year, President Trump issued an Executive Order to ensure that “essential medicines are made in the United States.” Similarly, Joe Biden has proposed a costly “Buy American” plan to bring pandemic-fighting supplies “back to U.S. soil.”
Any doubts about whether Buy American mandates for medical supplies are a horrible idea should have been erased by the Trump administration’s recent decision to award $486 million to a foreign pharmaceutical company to develop a monoclonal antibody cocktail that can prevent COVID-19.
This award demonstrates an awareness that given a choice between curing COVID-19 and requiring Americans to use U.S.-produced medicines, the important thing is to find a cure, regardless of where it comes from.
As Scott Linicome of the Cato Institute has documented, globalization will play an important role in the development of any COVID-19 vaccine. Moreover, these days it is rarely accurate to describe a pharmaceutical product--or just about anything else--as either “made in the USA” or “made abroad,” because goods are now developed and produced with inputs from around the world. Erecting barriers to international cooperation, as Trump and Biden have proposed, only serves to make the discovery of a cure less likely.
More broadly, whether it’s developing a new drug to treat COVID-19, securing an imported component needed to manufacture a new Toyota truck in San Antonio, TX, or purchasing an affordable pair of sneakers at Dollar General, the important thing is to recognize that American families and businesses benefit when we have the freedom to use the best goods and services from around the world. Buy American policies as proposed by Trump and Biden are a costly and cruel joke.