Decoupling of Supply Chains

September 21, 2022

“Covid-19, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and rising geopolitical risks in Asia have thrown a wrench into global supply chains,” writes The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 20, 2022). That has reinvigorated the push to put key supply links back onshore—particularly those currently located in China. A full “decoupling,” meaning the breaking of economic links with China, remains unlikely, but supply chains would become less integrated than in the past.

Two proposed laws in Europe are the latest case in point. The EU just set forth a ban on products made using forced labor. (It doesn’t name China but forced labor in the Xinjiang region is clearly a main target.) Recent U.S. legislation puts the onus on importers to prove that products from Xinjiang aren’t made with forced labor—an incredibly high bar. Such rearrangements could be challenging in some cases: For example in the solar supply chain, which is dominated by China. Xinjiang is a major producer of polysilicon, a crucial precursor of solar cells.

Continue reading