Raimondo: Commerce 'war room' seeing improvements on supply chain woes


The supply chain disruptions that have snarled the semiconductor industry and other sectors across the globe are more extensive and complicated than predicted, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Monday, but she asserted that gradual progress is being made despite persistent backlogs.

The Commerce Department has established a “war room” as part of its response to the global crisis. Led by chief economist Ronnie Chatterji, a former White House economist under Obama, the team has made detangling supply chains its core focus, she said in an interview.

That war room keeps tabs on stubborn issues ranging from port congestion to facility closures due to Covid-19 outbreaks, both of which have shown improvement as the pandemic gets under control and more people return to work, Raimondo said.

“There is no one thing [that will fix supply chains], that has become crystal clear to me,” Raimondo said. “So we have to do everything and all of the things we do, marginally, will improve the problem.”

The group is crunching data the Commerce Department requested in September from companies that produce and purchase semiconductors, the microchips that power electronic devices ranging from smartphones to automobiles.

Raimondo said she was pleased companies from around the world were forthcoming with information about their business transactions, which she believes will give the administration clearer insight into often-opaque questions about how many chips are being bought and sold.

“Semiconductors are like the water of the new economy, you can’t do anything without them. And there are huge vulnerabilities in the supply chain,” Raimondo said. “So, in my view, we can’t spend enough time on it as a matter of national security and a matter of economic security.”

Raimondo has been a central figure in President Joe Biden’s response to the nation’s plethora of supply chain challenges, including major backlogs at the nation’s ports, which economists say are contributing to higher consumer prices and threatening to leave some store shelves empty this holiday season.

Raimondo devotes a portion of each day to addressing supply chain problems and the global semiconductor shortage, she said. She also speaks weekly with National Economic Council Director Brian Deese as part of the White House’s broader supply chain task force.

Supply chain challenges, and semiconductors in particular, were also a constant topic in meetings with trade ministers and corporate leaders last week during Raimondo’s trip to Asia that included stops in Japan, Singapore and Malaysia.

The Biden administration wants to broker an economic agreement with trading partners in the Indo-Pacific region next year, and Raimondo said a key component of that arrangement will be to marshal allies to strengthen the global supply chains for semiconductors and other critical products.

“It was clear to me that we need a new kind of agreement for a new economy that includes topics, particularly relevant post-COVID, that aren’t traditionally included in free trade agreements, like supply chains, semiconductors, and infrastructure,” Raimondo said. “And so, whatever structure this thing takes, those topics will be high on the list.”

This is not a CAPTIS article. Originally, it was published here.