Growing international trade in Delaware means fighting COVID-19 globally, state leaders say

A container ship on the Delaware River

This June 18, 2019, file photo shows a container ship on the Delaware River. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

As President Biden prepared to sign his $1.2 trillion infrastructure legislation Monday afternoon, members of Delaware’s congressional delegation and other state leaders took part in a forum in Washington, D.C. to focus on global trade in the First State. 

That international focus is critical to Delaware’s economy, where more than one in five jobs is dependent on global trade, according to a study by Business Roundtable

Monday’s forum was arranged by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a group made up of more than 500 businesses and nonprofits who advocate for strong international development spending to improve global trade.

The Biden administration has taken steps to re-engage on the national stage in areas where President Trump had pulled back including the Paris climate agreement. Biden spoke to the hundreds gathered for the online forum in a recorded video. 

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“My administration has put diplomacy back at the center of our foreign policy,” Biden said. “Whether it’s sharpening America’s economic competitiveness or working with partners to reduce backlogs in global supply chains, we’re focused on issues that matter most to the future of the world as well. Most urgently, it’s ending this pandemic.”

Delaware Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester says that re-engagement on climate and other issues can make a difference for millions around the world.

“It means working together to develop life-saving vaccines in record time. It means forming alliances across the globe that defend democracy and not back autocracy,” she said. “It means working cooperatively to create an economy of prosperity that lifts citizens equitably around the globe.”

“Delaware’s a small state, but we have businesses that are based, really, all over the world paying good wages and really great jobs,” said former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell.

Markell is currently working under the Biden administration to head up the effort to relocate Afghan refugees. He’s also been nominated to serve as U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a global group that works to stimulate global trade. 

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“I think the more that we can work with our global partners to make sure their markets are open to us, their businesses understand what a great investment it is here at home, the better off we are going to be,” Markell said.

But for that global trade to remain healthy and grow, the COVID-19 pandemic must be brought under control around the world

“We care about the rest of the world, we care about our brothers and sisters in hundreds of other places around the world where the pandemic is far from over and where there are too many human lives being lost,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware.

“Every time there’s a new infection, there’s a new chance for a variant to develop around the world that can defeat the vaccines we are already deploying,” he said. “So, it is in every person’s interest to make sure that we vaccinate as many people as possible globally as quickly as possible.”

Part of that global pandemic fight includes sending vaccines around the world to places like Africa.

Strive Masiyiwa, African Union Special Envoy for COVID-19 Response, took part in Monday’s forum. He said the infrastructure put in place to distribute the vaccine in Africa could create a better future for health care on the continent. 

“That delivery challenge is also the greatest opportunity we have. It allows us to build clinics, to build hospitals, to build a pandemic legacy,” Masiyiwa said. “There is a silver lining from this great darkness that we can build something. We can’t say build back better, because we haven’t had it yet, but it’s an opportunity to build something for the future.”

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