Global Chip Shortage Challenges Biden’s Hope for Manufacturing Revival

A global shortage of a key component for cars and electronics has shuttered American factories and set off fierce competition to secure supplies.

By Ana Swanson

WASHINGTON — President Biden came into office with plans to help the economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic and spur a domestic manufacturing revival for goods such as automobiles and semiconductors.

But one month into his presidency, a global chip shortage has shuttered auto factories in the United States, slowed shipments of consumer electronics and called into question the security of American supply chains.

The shortage of a vital component for automobiles, phones, refrigerators and other electronic devices is posing an early challenge to the administration’s promise to revive a manufacturing sector depressed by the pandemic. And it has spurred an effort by the administration to reach out to U.S. embassies and foreign governments to try to alleviate the shortage, even as the White House acknowledges that there are most likely few solutions to the supply crunch in the short term.

The White House plans to issue an executive order soon that will take steps to address these kinds of vulnerabilities in critical supply chains over the longer term, an administration spokesperson said on Thursday. The order will begin a review of domestic manufacturing and supply chains for critical materials — including rare earths, medical supplies and semiconductors — with a particular focus on reducing dependencies on unreliable or unfriendly foreign actors.

In the meantime, administration officials have begun looking for ways to ease the immediate shortage. Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, and Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, have been involved in efforts to increase chip availability; Sameera Fazili, the deputy director of the National Economic Council, and Peter Harrell, a senior director at the National Security Council, are leading the focus on supply chains, the White House spokesperson said.

The United States has also tried to leverage its ties with Taiwan, one of the world’s largest chip manufacturers, to make sure American customers are not disadvantaged. In a letter sent on Wednesday, Mr. Deese thanked Wang Mei-Hua, the Taiwanese minister of economic affairs, for her “personal attention and support in resolving the current shortages faced by American automobile manufacturers.”

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