One important conversation of the coronavirus is how the current crisis is impacting long-standing trends within international business, trade, and manufacturing.
Even before the virus hit, an increase in automation and artificial intelligence has allowed companies around the world to hire smaller staffs while increasing efficiency, leaving many American workers behind.
Fred Hochberg, former Chairman and President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, joined The Cats Roundtable to discuss how the crisis has exacerbated global trends that often leave workers behind, but also how the crisis might also lead to solutions.
With the increasing diversity of world travel, climate, and health before the pandemic hit, the current crisis is a bellwether for what we will face in the future.
According to Hochberg, the coronavirus has tested the cooperation of the international community through larger divisions, such as culture and language, to continue to “come together despite this.”
“My hunch is they’re going to be chasing a lot more of these issues,” he told The Cats Roundtable. “We’re going to have to work together to defeat these things because otherwise they will defeat us.”
He told The Cats Roundtable that the pandemic is “breaking down” international cooperation, and noted that the goal today is to understand how pre-pandemic economies will adapt and cooperate in a post-pandemic world.
“Frankly, we’ve got one planet, and we’re going to have to find a way to live on this planet together,” he added.
The pandemic and its assault on the health system have also raised larger questions of global supply chains, especially for medical supplies and pharmaceutical drugs.
“We’re going to have to look at our supply chains” Hochberg told The Cats Roundtable, noting that the anxiety of our importation of over-the-counter drugs and medical equipment has grown “too reliant on one country, one company, or one part of the world.”
Hochberg reflected that even during his time with the Import-Export Bank from 2009 to 2017, “the mood around trade had gotten more sour.”
This stemmed especially from the fact that many in America felt left behind by the economic maneuverings in D.C.
“We did not really take care of people who got hurt by trade in the way they needed to,” he explained. “We didn’t support them.” With over 20 million now filing for unemployment insurance, Hochberg believes this is another reason to focus on the workers at home, explaining that “a social safety net” is more than just a “liberal idea.”
“We need to make sure when people face hardship, they have some support system, so that they don’t have to face it all by themselves,” he told The Cats Roundtable.
Exploring this distrust and the solutions in his book Trade is Not a Four Letter Word, he believes trade can continue to “improve our lives” in the current circumstances as long as leaders “make sure people benefit from it.”
According to Hochberg, that means that the Export-Import Bank, and the role it plays to support jobs, ensure product standards, and finance trade, are “going to be really important to make sure more Americans get back to work.”
Listen to the interview below