Tony Blinken Says National Security is Economic Security, But Biden Administration Faces Major Obstacles

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told an audience at the University of Maryland on Monday that national security and economic security go hand in hand.

“We must make the case for economic security as a matter of national security,” he said. “There is a national security case for public investment at home.”

Blinken was mostly talking up the Senate’s U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), which passed last month and is now getting reworked in the House. CPA also believes that economic security is a matter of national security. The problem is that the big business lobby, as represented by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, believes economic security means an Asian jobs program. The Chamber last week appealed to the Biden administration to repeal all China tariffs. Despite having over two years now to remap supply chains out of mainland China, they have preferred to hope for a new government that would return to the pre-trade war status of having China and southeast Asia pollute the world and dump pollutants down an Asian river so U.S. companies can declare their compliance with American environmental law. The ongoing push for labor, regulatory, and tax arbitrage in Asia is a headwind to Blinken’s call for a national security policy in line with economic strength.

It also stands in stark contrast to Biden’s agenda to recover from the pandemic buy including strict Buy American requirements in government purchase order agreements and other contract work.

Using the language of the Biden administration against them, the Chamber said that “A worker-centered trade agenda should account for the costs that U.S. and Chinese tariffs impose on Americans here and at home.”

Back at the podium at the University of Maryland, Blinken discussed the importance of college research labs, and said that public spending on infrastructure was also needed as a backbone to innovation from the private sector.

The House and Senate are closing in on a monster infrastructure bill.

According to Blinken, the U.S. share of public investment as a percentage of GDP has fallen by around 40% — though he did not specify a time frame. He noted that China, meanwhile, was spending three times what the U.S. does, though this is mostly due to China’s “bridge to nowhere” economy, and the fact that numerous third and fourth-tier cities in China still lack the kind of infrastructure that is part of the popular, Western imagination of China.

Blinken’s short, 10-minute speech said that China was keen on watching the U.S. fall farther behind. It made the China model more popular in other nations. The U.S., Blinken believes, stands in the way of that model.

“When you’re sitting the table with foreign leaders, trying to persuade them to stop doing something that you agree with, it makes all the difference in the world to be operating from a position of national strength and that goes beyond military might. If the economy is strong…it adds up to greater diplomatic strength. Countries pay attention to those things,” he said. “And they pay attention if you are not strong in those things. China’s government is making the argument that the U.S. is in decline, and it is better to cast your lot with their authoritarian model rather than a free, democratic one.”

He is right. The U.S. needs a business community that sees things the same way. Many multinationals, as represented by the Chamber, believe it is best to continue our dependence on Asian supply chains, to the obvious detriment to American labor, and manufacturers.

Get the latest in CPA news, industry analysis, opinion, and updates from Team CPA.