Will COVID bring U.S. factory jobs back?

SMITHFIELD — Could the COVID pandemic help bring manufacturing jobs back to Rhode Island?

That’s one intriguing possible spinoff of the logjam in international shipping resulting from the pandemic that was discussed Wednesday during World Trade Day, hosted by Bryant University. The event, which usually takes place at the Smithfield campus, was held remotely this year. 

Global supply chains, the system of ships, planes and trucks that move goods around the world, were a leading topic of discussion at the conference.

More:Second round of COVID shortages: Cars, lumber and product packaging all impacting RI stock

“So many lives and livelihoods were devastated by the pandemic, including here in Rhode Island,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, the former Rhode Island governor, said in recorded remarks. “And we know that COVID-19 severely disrupted international global supply chains. In fact, trade declined by over 20%, exceeding the declines we saw after the 2008 financial crisis. Increasing engagement with international markets is vital to our economic recovery.”

Former Gov. Gina Raimondo, now U.S. commerce secretary, addressed the conference in prerecorded remarks.

But trouble moving goods on container ships as a result of the pandemic is a major obstacle to that increased engagement, several speakers said.

The pandemic hamstrung international shipping in several ways, they said:

*Dock workers have been idled is several countries because of spikes in occurrences of the disease.

*Unexpected demand in shipping has created shortages in ships, containers, the equipment that converts the containers to truck trailers, trucks themselves and drivers to drive them.

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