WASHINGTON — The fast-moving coronavirus stemming from China could force companies to re-evaluate their supply chains, potentially returning some jobs to the United States, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said on Thursday.
Ross expressed sympathy for victims of the virus and their families. “But the fact is, it does give businesses yet another thing to consider when they go through their review of their supply chain, on top of all the other things,” he told Fox Business Network in an interview.
“It’s another risk factor that people need to take into account, so I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America – some to the U.S., probably some to Mexico,” Ross added.
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While the virus has yet to be declared a worldwide health emergency, it has threatened the global economy given China’s position as the world’s second-largest economy after the United States.
China has locked down the epicentre of the virus, Wuhan, as well as other cities. Major companies have also closed their China operations, while airlines suspended China-bound flights.
So far, 170 people have died from the new virus.
The United States and China earlier this month agreed a Phase 1 trade deal, which U.S. President Donald Trump has touted as helping fulfill his America First campaign pledge to boost the U.S. economy and workers.
The deal soothed markets at the time, though many key issues were left unresolved and pushed to planned Phase 2 talks.