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SUPPLY LINES: Trump’s America Inc. Reboot Needs to Sync With Canada, Mexico

Trump speaks before signing USMCA on Jan. 29. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg


By Jenny Leonard for Bloomberg – President Donald Trump made it official on Thursday: He’s determined to reopen the U.S. economy — at least in part — next month.

“A national shutdown is not a sustainable long-term solution,” he said in a press conference announcing his administration’s three-phase plan to restart economic activity in America. “To keep vital supply chains running, these chains have to be taken care of so delicately. We must have a working economy and we want to get it back very, very quickly.”

READ: President Trump tells governors to ‘call your own shots’ on reopening

Yet, for companies whose supply lines stretch across North America, that won’t be enough to get back to business. Take the automotive sector. Without a coordinated timetable between all auto-producing states in the U.S., Mexico and Canada, they won’t be able to manufacture vehicles.

READ: Detroit automakers agree to UAW request to shutter U.S. plants

So far, the Trump administration seems to be thinking only about steps within the U.S. borders and by individual states. Automakers learned their lessons from cycling through the coronavirus outbreak and the beginning of its recovery in China, where many factories have progressively picked up production again. They know the process in North America will be slow and that it will come with a number of added hurdles.

READ: Canadians would be crazy to open up their border with the United States right now.

There will be layers of precaution to ensure the restart is safe and doesn’t jeopardize employees’ health. Industry playbooks propose personal protective equipment for all workers, staggered shifts and adherence to social-distancing rules, which means plants have to be restructured.

“We’re identifying all the PPE requirements,” Jim Farley, Ford’s chief operating officer, said last week. “We’re not going to bring anyone back or even think about it before we have the sufficient supplies.”

But a safe restart also requires coordination among the North American partners on protocols to ensure this won’t result in a renewed shutdown and yet another restart. Very few links in the supply chain could afford such a scenario.

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