(CNSNews.com) - It is time for the United States to take back the pharmaceutical production we "gave away" to China, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told Fox News's Tucker Carlson Monday night.
Rubio noted that coronavirus has shut down parts of China, including pharmaceutical production: "At some point, there could be a medical shortage of critical drugs in this country because the place where the ingredients were made hasn't been working for a couple of months."
Rubio said the vulnerabilities of the supply chain were evident a few years ago, in the same Wuhan province, where an explosion produced a worldwide shortage of antibiotics.
"The way we address it is a couple of things," Rubio said:
Number one is, we've got to create demand for domestic production of these basic active ingredients and/or diversify our supply chain so it's not coming out of one province and one country."
Rubio noted that last week, the official newspaper of China's Communist Party -- angry about China being criticized for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak -- threatened to take "strategic control over medical products and ban exports to the United States. If China announces that its drugs are for domestic use and bans exports, the United States will fall into the hell of a new coronavirus epidemic," the paper warned.
An export ban of crucial pharmaceuticals would "kill Americans," Rubio said.
"There are other, developed medicines that may come from another country, not China, but their active ingredients are also from there. So we've got to create demand, number one," Rubio said.
"You know, the Department of Defense should have to be required to build a stockpile of essential medicines.
"We should bring back the buy-American preferences in the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration. All of that creates demands for domestic production and part of it is actually requiring pharmaceuticals to tell us...what percentage of the ingredients in your medicine comes from overseas, particularly from China."
Rubio said we don't know what percentage of pharmaceutical ingredients are in a given medication coming from China "because that requirement is not embedded in every pharmaceutical company's profile."
The effort to change China through capitalism has failed, Rubio said: "Instead, it's China that's changed capitalism and weaponized it."
"We gave away these industries," the senator noted. Giving China Most-Favored-Nation status drive pharmaceutical production to China "because it was cheaper to do it there."
"This is particularly true by the way in generics. The overwhelming majority of Americans are taking generics...The majority, almost entirely the active ingredients, are coming from China. So this is not just the threat with coronavirus. We're talking about high blood pressure and other essential medicines that people take. We could have a shortage, even if it's not deliberate.
"That's the other point. We know production has stopped and right now we are going through inventory. At some point, there could be a medical shortage of critical drugs in this country because the place where the ingredients were made hasn't been working for a couple of months."