U.S. VP Harris meets company execs in Singapore to discuss supply shortages

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U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris attends a roundtable at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore before departing for Vietnam on the second leg of her Asia trip, August, 24, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool

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SINGAPORE, Aug 24 (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris met company executives in Singapore on Tuesday to discuss supply shortages of essential items that have plagued the Biden administration and contributed to inflation.

The United States faced serious challenges in obtaining medical equipment during the COVID-19 epidemic and now faces severe bottlenecks in a number of areas, including semiconductor chips, stalling production of cars and other goods.

The White House has repeatedly sought to increase domestic production of such items but has struggled to alleviate the supply crunch.

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"Ultimately we need to think of it in the context of a national priority around security... a large part of the emphasis for me and then the discussion was about what it means in terms of the needs of families but also the needs of workers," Harris said.

She joined a roundtable with executives from companies including BlackRock Inc (BLK.N), GlobalFoundries Inc, 3M Co (MMM.N), United Parcel Service (UPS.N), Procter & Gamble (PG.N) and Temasek Holdings Pte, Singapore's state-owned investment company.

It was unclear what specific commitments or partnerships Harris was able to strike with the companies on Tuesday. On Monday, she announced an initiative that includes starting a U.S.-Singapore dialogue on building supply chains.

Bain & Co's U.S. head of technology, Anne Hoecker, said Southeast Asia plays a key role in "securing a semiconductor and overall electronics supply chain has become a national priority". Hoecker expects the chip shortage to last through 2022.

U.S. President Joe Biden ordered the review of critical supply chains in February, requiring executive agencies to report back within 100 days on risks to U.S. access to critical goods like those used in pharmaceuticals as well as rare earth minerals, for which the United States is dependent on overseas sources.

In June, the White House offered little in the way of new measures to immediately ease chip supply shortages. https://reut.rs/2WhdyOI

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Reporting by Nandita Bose in Singapore, Additional reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Nick Macfie

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