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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.

Updated 15 mins ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

2 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.