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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden wants the 650,000 vehicles operated by the federal government to be electric, union-made — and made in America. As Axios' Joann Muller reports, even managing the first two would be extremely difficult. The third, however, is particularly problematic.

Why it matters: We live in a world of highly complex global supply chains, where "made in" designations are increasingly difficult to determine.

It is impossible to overstate how labyrinthine and bottomless these rules are. The official World Customs Organization handbook barely scratches the surface, but all you really need to do is see the abject fear in the eyes of any international economist when you say the magic words "rules of origin."

  • Biden wants to change those rules, and in doing so he wants to discourage global supply chains in favor of a dream of purely domestic manufacturing. It's not clear whether changing the rules or moving the factories is the more difficult task.

Consumers in post-Brexit Britain are learning the hard way that even when there are no tariffs on goods from the EU, country-of-origin rules can end up saddling them with large and unexpected bills added onto shipments from Europe.

The big picture: This is deglobalization in action. Country-of-origin regulations are like kryptonite to efficient global supply chains. The more of them there are, the worse that is for all global trade.

Go deeper

Jan 27, 2021 - Economy & Business

Biden's car shopping list may be too picky

Photo: Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

President Biden's plan to replace the government’s fleet of 650,000 cars and trucks with electric vehicles assembled in the U.S. by union workers is easier said than done.

Why it matters: The populist "Buy American" message sounds good, but the vehicles Biden wants are still several years away and his purchase criteria would require an expensive overhaul of automakers' manufacturing strategies, not to mention a reversal of fortune for labor organizers long stymied by Tesla and other non-union companies.

Laurel Hubbard to become 1st openly trans athlete to compete at Olympics

New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, when she became the first openly transgender athlete to represent NZ. Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The New Zealand Olympic Committee has announced that Laurel Hubbard has been selected for the women's weightlifting team for the Tokyo Games — making her the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the event.

The big picture: Hubbard, 43, is part of a five-member Kiwi weightlifting team and will compete in the women's super heavyweight category. Meanwhile, BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe will become the first openly trans athlete to travel to the Olympics with Team USA, when she arrives in Tokyo as a reserve rider.

American Airlines cuts hundreds of flights amid demand surge

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

American Airlines announced Sunday that it's cutting some 950 flights from its schedule, including 296 this weekend, to reduce potential pressure on its operations, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

Driving the news: The U.S. vaccine rollout has led to a massive increase in travel bookings. The airline noted in an emailed statement that it's facing an "incredibly quick ramp up of customer demand."