Canada critical to helping ensure global supply chain security

February 16, 2022

Wuhan, China, was the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2019. The initial region-wide lockdown to stem the domestic transmission of the virus negatively affected global supply chains of a variety of sectors including the semiconductor, pharmaceutical and the automobile, among others.

Though geographically distant from the COVID-19 epicenter, Canada felt and continues to feel the challenges associated with disruptions in supply chains connected to the Indo-Pacific. These disruptions are prompting Canada and other countries to think about their economic security.

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic there was a shortage of personal protective equipment, demonstrating the link between nontraditional security issues like transnational diseases such as COVID-19 and the disruption of supply chains. We also saw the weaponization of supply chains with Canadian products being prejudiced by China through economic coercion associated with the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou. This showed the link between geopolitics and the weaponization of supply chains. This economic coercion demonstrated that black swan events like the COVID-19 pandemic were not the only threat to supply chains and economic security.

In both cases, disruptions in supply chains affected Canadians. It wasn’t until the floods in late 2021 in British Columbia did Canada and its Indo-Pacific partners like Japan understand that there were supply chain resilience issues on the North American side of the Indo-Pacific with agricultural products such as potatoes being disrupted.

These events have highlighted the importance of building resilience into the Indo-Pacific portion of the supply chain. Critically, this is not a Canada specific issue. It has garnered increased interest among like-minded countries such as Japan, the United States, Australia, India and many more. They are looking to supply chain resilience as an important part of their economic security and a critical tool to negotiate the challenges of U.S.-China strategic competition across the Indo-Pacific region.