On December 22, 2020, the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) released a report providing information on the U.S. industries producing COVID-19 related goods and the market, trade and supply chain challenges and constraints affecting the availability of such goods. The report follows an earlier report that identified such goods treating and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. That report identified the goods’ source countries, tariff classifications and applicable duty rates. For additional details on this earlier report, see Update of May 5, 2020.

The December 2020 report was prepared at the request of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Ways and Means and the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance  (see Update of August 24, 2020) and focuses primarily on the availability of goods from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic through September 2020. The report notes that “some of the initial supply chain challenges have eased but a number remain. The improvement is attributable in part to U.S. manufacturers’ launching or boosting production, increased imports of critical COVID-19 related goods, and a better understanding of the virus. However, as the pandemic continues, difficulties remain, and for certain COVID-19 related goods, supply constraints are not expected to wane until 2022.” The report analyzes four key industry sectors: medical devices, personal protective equipment, pharmaceuticals, soaps and cleaning compounds. The report also includes case studies on ventilators, N95 respirators, surgical masks, surgical and isolation gowns, medical and surgical gloves, test kits, vaccines and hand sanitizers. These studies provide information on supply chain challenges and constraints, including a discussion of factors affecting domestic production and factors affecting imports of finished goods and key inputs.

According to the USITC:

  • U.S. demand for all products covered in the case studies substantially increased in the first half of 2020, as compared to 2019, leading to significant shortages.
  • The United States produced all goods covered in the case studies before the pandemic, as well as many of the inputs. The U.S. industry supplied only a relatively small share of the domestic market for certain medical PPE, such as medical gloves and gowns, but supplied a large share of the domestic market for goods like ventilators, vaccines, N95 respirators, and hand sanitizers.
  • U.S. imports of most COVID-19 related goods covered in the case studies increased substantially beginning around April or May 2020, depending on the product.
  • Some of the initial supply chain challenges have eased, such as those for ventilators, but a number remain, including for many PPE items.
  • The major factors affecting domestic production of COVID-19 related goods include the availability and costs of inputs, the time and cost of bringing additional production capacity online (including purchasing and installing new machinery), and the time needed to recruit and train new workers.
  • The most significant factor affecting imports was that global demand significantly exceeded available supply of many COVID-19 related goods, making it difficult for U.S. importers to procure sufficient quantities.