White House pitches America First 2.0

U.S. President Joe Biden holds a news conference after the U.S.-Russia summit with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON, June 23 (Reuters Breakingviews) - Competing sometimes means copying. U.S. President Joe Biden’s top economic aide, Brian Deese, said on Wednesday that the government needs to play a bigger role in supporting certain technologies and industries. That’s taking a leaf out of China’s playbook and a more organized version of former President Donald Trump’s America First policy.

Deese said the pandemic was a wake-up call to make more products at home. For example, hospitals were short of protective gear because such goods are mainly made in China. At an Atlantic Council event, he also noted that almost 90% of facilities to make ingredients for generic drugs are located overseas, an issue highlighted in the White House’s recent supply-chain review.

The move toward a more government-directed economy is not new. But while Trump’s approach was chaotic, Biden’s take is more structured. And it helps that Congress is on board. The Senate recently passed a bill to spend $250 billion on research and development to better compete with the People’s Republic. Bipartisan support means Uncle Sam will be relying less on the invisible hand. (By Gina Chon)

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Editing by Swaha Pattanaik and Amanda Gomez

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