March 16, 2020 / 12:56 PM / in 22 days

White House working on order to cut U.S. dependency on foreign medicines

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House is preparing an executive order to help relocate medical supply chains from China and elsewhere overseas to the United States amid the coronavirus outbreak, top Trump administration officials said on Monday.

The U.S. push has sparked concern in China and elsewhere.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s top trade adviser, Peter Navarro, told CNN he hoped to finish work this week on the order aimed at reducing U.S. reliance on foreign drugs.

“Most Americans don’t know (that) 97% of antibiotics come to this country from China (and) 80% of the active ingredients in pharmaceuticals come from China and India,” Navarro told CNN, echoing comments also made to CNBC.

“This week, I hope to bring to the finish line for the president an executive order which is designed to bring those supply chains home,” said Navarro, a long-time trade hawk.

As part of the order, the Trump administration is considering offering companies “100% expensing” to move their operations back to the United States from China, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters.

A Chinese official on Monday warned that a push by the White House to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign medicines in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak was “neither realistic nor wise.”

“In the era of globalization, the interests of all countries are deeply intertwined. In the face of the epidemic, it is neither realistic nor wise to attempt to artificially cut off the global industrial chain and supply chain,” said the Chinese official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Meanwhile, German government sources told Reuters on Sunday they were trying to stop Washington from persuading German company CureVac, which is working on a potential coronavirus vaccine, to move its research to the United States.

Earlier, Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported that Trump had offered funds to lure CureVac to the United States, and the German government was making counter-offers to tempt it to stay. The U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, wrote on Twitter: “The Welt story was wrong.”

Navarro dodged a question about the issue during a CNBC interview, focusing instead on the general need to manufacture more medical equipment and supplies in the United States.

“The essence of the order ... is to bring all of that home so that we don’t have to worry about foreign dependency,” he told CNBC.

Andrea Shalal, Jeff Mason and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Paul Simao

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