New Articles

FREE TRADE IN MEDICINES AND SUPPLIES IS THE HEALTHIEST APPROACH

supplies

FREE TRADE IN MEDICINES AND SUPPLIES IS THE HEALTHIEST APPROACH

What Does Trade Have to Do with the Pandemic?

pandemic is a type of epidemic, wherein an outbreak of a disease not only affects a high proportion of the population at the same time, but also spreads quickly over a wide geographic area.

As the novel coronavirus jumped continents, governments in countries yet unaffected or with low incidence rates moved to prevent “importing” the virus through individual travel. Simultaneously, governments acted to create diagnostic kits and treatments for those with the virus – all praise our frontline healthcare workers.

Unfortunately, what could worsen the situation is a policy practice that seems to be infectious. More than 20 governments are banning the export of needed supplies, a prescription for shortages and higher prices. What the crisis also lays bare is that key countries and many important healthcare products remain outside a WTO agreement that would otherwise enable duty-free trade in the medicines and supplies we need on a regular basis.

Pandemic Proportions

In the history of pandemics, there has been none more deadly than the infamous Bubonic Plague which took 200 million lives in the mid-14th century, wiping out half the population on the European Continent. The pathogen spread through infected fleas carried by rodents, frequent travelers on trading ships. The practice of quarantine began in the seaport of Venice, which required any ships arriving from infected ports to sit at anchor for 40 days — quaranta giorni — before landing. Two centuries later, Small Pox took 56 million lives. In the modern era, some 40 to 50 million succumbed to the Spanish Flu of 1918 and HIV/AIDS has claimed 25-35 million lives since 1981.

For perspective, and not to minimize its severe toll, the number of fatalities from novel coronavirus will likely exceed 10,000 by the time of this writing. COVID-19, as it is currently known, is a reminder that we live with the ongoing threat from many types of both known infectious diseases like cholera, Zika and Avian flu, as well as diseases yet unknown to us. Although we can more rapidly detect, contain and treat epidemics, diseases now travel at the speed of a person on board an international flight. Our cities are bigger and denser, further enabling rapid transmission.

Pandemic Prepping Includes Trade

Because we are interconnected, we share the health risks, but we can also problem-solve as a global community. Scientists in international labs share insights to identify viruses, swap guidance on how to conduct confirmatory tests, and quickly communicate best practices for containment.

Outside times of crisis, global trade in health-related products and services has laid the foundation for faster medical breakthroughs through international research and development projects, and by diversifying the capability to produce medical supplies, devices, diagnostics and pharmaceuticals.

Innovation thrives in the United States like nowhere else. Yet, no single country, not even the United States, can discover, produce and distribute diagnostics, vaccines and cures for everything that ails us — or invent every medical intervention that improves the productivity and quality of our lives.

One Quarter of medicines have tariffs

A Dose of Foresight

As the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations were drawing to a close in 1994, a group of countries representing (at the time) 90 percent of total pharmaceutical production came to an agreement. Each government would eliminate customs duties on pharmaceutical products and avoid trade-restrictive or trade-distorting measures that would otherwise frustrate the objective of duty-free trade in medicines.

The WTO’s Pharmaceutical Tariff Elimination Agreement, which entered into force on January 1, 1995, is known as a “zero-for-zero initiative” to eliminate duties reciprocally in a particular industrial sector. Signed onto over subsequent years by the United States, Europe’s 28 member states, Japan, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Australia and handful of others, the agreement initially covered approximately 7,000 items that included formulated or dosed medicines, medicines traded in bulk, active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and other chemical intermediaries in finished pharmaceuticals.

Signatories agreed to expand the list in 1996, 1998, 2006 and 2010 so it now covers more than 10,000 products. Tariffs were eliminated on a most-favored-nation basis, meaning it was extended to imports from all WTO members, not just parties to the agreement.

Maintenance Drugs

Though an important start, the agreement has not been updated in a decade. Trade in products covered by the WTO agreement has risen from $1.3 trillion in 2009 to $1.9 trillion in 2018. Yet, some 1,000 finished products and 700 ingredients are not covered under the agreement, leaving pharmaceutical trade subject to hundreds of millions in customs duties. With China and India increasing manufacturing over the last decade, the value of global trade included in duty-free treatment decreased from 90 percent in 1995 to 81 percent in 2009 to 78 percent in 2018.

It is challenging to chart trade statistics and tariffs on health-related products, particularly since many chemical ingredients have both medical and non-medical uses. Here we have attempted to reproduce tables developed by the WTO in 2010, but we do not include a large number of chemicals that have general use whose tariff lines were not enumerated in the WTO’s analysis.

Health Product Import Shares

In 2010, the European Union and the United States together accounted for almost half of all world imports of health-related products. Europe has become a much larger importer while U.S. imports have decreased slightly as a percentage of global imports. Imports by many big emerging markets including Brazil, Mexico, China, India and Turkey, have increased along with their purchasing power. These countries benefit from zero duties when importing from countries that signed on to the WTO Pharmaceutical Trade Agreement.

Health Product Export Shares

On the export side, Europe dramatically increased its share of global exports while the United States dropped across the board compared to 2010, particularly in medical products and supplies. China shows significant growth in exports of inputs specific to the pharmaceutical industry – including antibiotics, hormones and vitamins – as well as medical equipment including diagnostic reagents, gloves, syringes and medical devices. India also increased its exports of all types of pharmaceuticals, particularly ingredients, but did not drive up its share across all types of exported health-related products. China and India would benefit from zero duties without having to reciprocate for exports from countries that signed on to the WTO agreement.

That said, according to the trade data, China and India still only account for 5.4 percent of global exports in health-related products covered by the agreement. Therefore, simply expanding membership to include these countries is not sufficient to enlarge duty-free trade – the number of tariff lines covered by the agreement would also need to expand to capture a significant portion of traded healthcare products.

Emerging Market Pharm Trade

Tariffs as a Symptom

The final price of a pharmaceutical is determined by many factors that differ by country. Costs and markups occur along the distribution chain from port charges to warehousing, to local government taxes, distribution charges, and hospital or retailer markups. Tariffs may seem a relatively small component of the final price, but the effect is compounded as all of these “internal” costs accumulate and they are symptomatic of complex regulatory systems.

A 2017 study by the European Centre for International Political Economy determined that tariffs on final prices add an annual burden of up to $6.2 billion in China. In Brazil and India, tariffs on medicines may increase the final price by up to 80 percent of the ex-factory sales price. Imported pharmaceuticals are at a clear disadvantage and patients bear the burden in cost and diminished availability.

Side Effects

According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the U.S. pharmaceutical industry historically shipped bulk APIs from foreign production sites to the United States before formulating into dosed products. After the WTO agreement, it became viable to import more finished products duty-free. Over the years, a failure to add more APIs to the duty-free list reinforced this trend. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also allows firms to import formulated products prior to receiving marketing approval to prepare for a new product launch but does not allow bulk API importation before market approval.

The urgency to accrue adequate supplies and treatments for COVID-19 has reignited a debate on U.S. over-reliance on China and India for antibiotics, among other medicines. What if factories must close? What if China and India withhold supplies? If raw materials and ingredients are derived in those countries, would the United States be able to ramp up domestic production? The White House is considering incentives and Buy America government procurement requirements to stimulate demand for U.S. production and in the meanwhile has temporarily reduced tariffs on medical supplies such as disposable gloves, face masks and other common hospital items from China.

20 Countries Ban Medical Exports

A Cure Worse Than the Disease

Removing barriers to trade in essential products is a healthier approach than imposing restrictions that could exacerbate potential shortages.

Nonetheless, some 20 countries have announced a ban on the export of medical gear – masks, gloves, and protective suits worn by medical professionals. They include Germany, France, Turkey, Russia, South Korea, India, Taiwan, Thailand and Kazakhstan.

Governments generally do maintain national stocks of critical items to enable manufacturers to ramp up production in cases of health emergencies or address unexpected gaps in their supply chains. But when major producers withhold global supply, importing countries face shortages and higher prices. Dangerously, India’s trade restrictions go beyond medical gear to restrict export of 26 pharmaceutical ingredients. India, however, relies heavily on APIs imported from China for their medicines, much of it originating from factories in Hubei province where the outbreak emerged.

Bans tend to beget more bans, potentially wreaking havoc on pharmaceutical and medical product supply chains, making it more difficult for healthcare workers to stem spread of the virus. Poorer countries with already fragile and underfunded healthcare systems are left in an even more vulnerable position.

A Test for Public-Private Collaboration

Instead of export restrictions, governments can expedite purchase orders and otherwise support industry efforts to ramp up production for domestic and global use. Most global manufacturers are operating at several times their usual capacity since the initial outbreak in China. Private labs are utilizing high-throughput platforms to conduct more tests faster but require trade in the chemical reagents needed to start up and run the tests.

Biopharmaceutical firms are applying their scientific expertise to accelerate the development of a vaccine and treatments for COVID-19. They are reviewing their research portfolios, investigating previously approved medicines that have potential to treat the virus, and donating approved investigational medicines to the global research effort. Internationally, scientists are collaborating through a Norway-based nonprofit called the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations on COVID-19 vaccine development. They know that the more options, the better – most drug candidates will not get through all three phases of clinical trials.

Recovery

Epidemic diseases evolve and they do not respect borders. Treating them, as well as the myriad chronic diseases and other ailments that affect us more routinely, requires new and adapted medical technologies arising from innovation made widely available through trade.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with providing incentives to encourage domestic production, it should not come at the expense of free trade in health-related products. Tariffs should be eliminated on life-saving medicines and their ingredients. Governments must impose restrictions on exports temporarily and only when absolutely necessary. In this way, openness in trade will help promote the recovery of both our health and our economies.

Many thanks to economist and contributor Alice Calder for running all the trade numbers in this article. Full data tables may be accessed here.

__________________________________________________________________

Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught international trade policy and negotiations for the last fifteen years as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.

Alice Calder

Alice Calder received her MA in Applied Economics at GMU. Originally from the UK, where she received her BA in Philosophy and Political Economy from the University of Exeter, living and working internationally sparked her interest in trade issues as well as the intersection of economics and culture.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

slavery

“Free” Trade and Modern Slavery

Modern Slavery

It’s more common than you might think. Seeking a means to provide for themselves and their families, millions of people routinely put their fate in the hands of brokers who promise factory, fishing, farming, hospitality or healthcare jobs overseas. They leave their country, greeted in a strange land not by honest employers but by traffickers. They are now bonded laborers who are told they must work to pay off their debt under threat of violence. Sometimes that “work” is commercial sex. Against their will, by force, fraud or coercion, they have become slaves.

The International Labor Organization estimates that 20.9 million men, women and children are victims of forced labor at any point in time. Although a person does not need to be physically transported to be subject to slavery, 29 percent of victims end up in forced labor after moving across international borders.

$150 Billion in Illicit Profits – Every Year

In small numbers, we should be concerned. But this is no small problem. According to the Alliance to End Slavery and Human Trafficking, human trafficking is one of the largest criminal enterprises in the world, generating an estimated $150 billion in illicit profits annually.

In the United States, January has been designated National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. To recognize the 20th anniversary of the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), the White House held a Summit on Human Trafficking on January 31.

The summit culminated in the signing of an executive order to improve prevention, increase prosecutions, and strengthen protections for victims in the United States, recognizing that “millions of individuals are trafficked around the world each year — including into…the United States.”

To combat it requires a comprehensive government effort involving labor and criminal enforcement, public services to aid victims, counter-trafficking policies and programming in overseas assistance, intelligence and diplomatic coordination – and trade policy.

Human Trafficking Across Borders Stat

Trade Policy and Trafficking

As far back as the Tariff Act of 1930, the United States prohibits the importation of foreign goods made by means of slave labor. But more recently, Congress has debated whether the United States should grant trading privileges to governments that do not respect human rights or fail to combat trafficking. That question featured in the annual debate over whether to grant “most favored nation” trading status to China before it entered the WTO. It arose again when some Members of Congress questioned whether Malaysia should be included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

In January 2018, Senators Menendez and Portman introduced the Anti-Trafficking Act to suspend countries from U.S. trade preference programs for one year for failing to address trafficking.

The U.S. State Department spearheads an annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report to assess the extent to which our and other governments are making efforts to meet minimum standards to eliminate human trafficking. On that basis, countries are placed into one of three tiers or on a watch list. “Tier 1” countries are deemed compliant with minimum standards under TVPA for making “serious and sustained efforts” to eliminate human trafficking.

On the other end of the spectrum, governments on “Tier 3” do not fully meet the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so. A country in Tier 3 may be restricted from receiving certain U.S. foreign aid, though the president may issue a partial or full waiver, particularly if withholding such assistance would cause adverse effects to vulnerable populations. The concept of withholding benefits to Tier 3 countries has also been applied to trade.

A “Principal” Trade Negotiating Objective

The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 as amended (the legislation that gives the executive branch its trade negotiating mandate and authority) added a principal trade negotiating objective on human rights. The expedited voting procedures afforded to trade deals under the Act can be conditioned on progress toward achieving this objective.

Principal negotiating objective smaller font

More powerful a lever, the Act explicitly prohibits applying so-called “fast track” voting on trade agreements with countries ranked on Tier 3 of the TIP Report.

Tier 3 exception smaller font

However, the Act was amended to allow the President to submit a waiver to Congress. The waiver is not meant to rest its case on new, untested commitments. Rather, it should describe “concrete steps” that country has taken to implement recommendations in the TIP report and should include supporting documentation. To date, no country has been denied a trade deal on this basis.

Free Trade Begins with Free

Trafficking in humans is an abomination and the worst form of illicit trade. Some policymakers believe that trading with the United States is a powerful incentive to government action and is therefore an effective tool to deploy as a punishment or carrot to improve human rights. Others argue that engagement in trade opportunities should not be withheld, lest it hold back economic progress in places and for people who need it the most.

Human rights as customary international law came into being and “grew up” alongside the international trade regime after WWII. The primacy of human rights over trade liberalization obligations is consistent with trade law itself, which explicitly provides exceptions where necessary to protect human life.

Wherever the debate comes out on how to use trade agreements and policies to promote human rights, we can all agree that free trade begins with free. The human right to be free will always come prior to free trade.

Dive Deeper: Trafficking in Persons Report 2019

________________________________________________________________

Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught international trade policy and negotiations for the last fourteen years as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

Safe Ports’ Strategies for Success

Safe Ports Holdings, a woman-led logistics and inland ports-focused company, announced the appointment of His Highness Sheikh Khalid Al Hamed to lead operations and efforts to support the company’s overall vision to establish world-class logistics hubs, specifically in the African and Middle Eastern region, according to a release this week from the company.

Safe Ports’ is establishing technologically advanced logistics solutions which can accelerate economic prosperity throughout this region. Safe Ports is a company that fully embraces the logistics opportunities before us, and is making a difference, we are very pleased to be a part of this effort,” His Highness Sheikh Khalid Al Hamed said.

His Highness Shekh Al Hamed holds several esteemed positions as the KMK Investments Executive Chairman along with his various real estate, construction, and other business investments. This extensive line of experience will prove successful for Safe Ports and the 2019 business initiatives as Al Hamed takes the new position on the International Advisory Board.

“The Sheikh’s leadership and vision demonstrate his deep commitment to regional economic growth,” said General Keane on the transition. “We are very pleased to have him become a part of our team.”

Safe Ports along with Al Hamed focus on the greater issues within trade topics, focusing on free trade zones and logistics hubs that support successful movements of cargo in all sectors from sea to rail and highways. Safe Ports announcing the transition is just one of the various ways industry leading companies are gearing up for the upcoming new year, proving planning efforts are to be implemented sooner than later.

Source: Safe Ports

Australia, China Ink Major Free Trade Agreement

Los Angeles, CA – Australia and China, it largest trading partner, have inked a preliminary free-trade deal that would give Australia’s service industry unsurpassed access to the Chinese market and hand the Australian agriculture sector some significant market advantages over its U.S., Canadian and European competitors.

Under the terms of the “Declaration of Intent” deal, China will reportedly make 85 percent of Australian goods imports tariff-free from the outset, rising to 93 percent four years later, the Australian government said.

In return, Australia will lift tariffs on imports of Chinese manufactured goods and alter the threshold at which privately-owned Chinese companies can invest in non-sensitive areas without government scrutiny from 248 million Australian dollars ($218 million) to AU$1,078 million.

The pact would be signed soon after the first of the year and could take effect as early as March if it is endorsed by the Australian Parliament. No modeling has been done on the value of the free-trade deal, the government said.

The removal of tariffs on Australian farm products would give Australia an advantage over U.S., Canadian and E.U. competitors while negating advantages New Zealand and Chile have enjoyed through their free-trade deals with China, the government said.

According to press reports, stumbling blocks in the negotiations, which began in 2005, were Chinese protection of its rice, cotton, wheat, sugar and oil seed industries and demands for less Australian government restrictions on Australian companies and assets being sold to Chinese state-owned businesses.

Those specific areas were excluded from the agreement, which will be renegotiated in three years, reports said.

Two-way trade between Australia and China grew from $86 million in the early 1970s to $136 billion in 2013.

11/20/2014

U.S., China Have Diverging ‘Vision’ for Pacific Trade

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. will continue to focus on its own blueprint for a comprehensive Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), according to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

Speaking at the APEC Summit in Beijing, Froman told reporters that a China-backed “vision” for Asia-Pacific free trade is only a “long-term aspiration, not the launch of a new FTA (free trade area).”

“It’s a reaffirmation of a long-term aspiration for the region that’s to be achieved through other ongoing negotiations,” he said.

Froman remarks define an on-going divergence in the approach to a Pacific regional trade accord by the two largest trade players in the region, the U.S. and China.

Beijing has thrown its support behind the FTAAP idea, while the U.S. is working towards crafting the long-sought 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which excludes China.

According to media reports, a draft final communique of the Beijing-hosted summit prominently mentions the importance of FTAAP calling for steps to be taken to “translate the FTAAP from a vision to reality” and craft a “strategic study.”

In response, Froman said, the TPP remains “a priority” and that it would serve as a “building block” for the FTAAP, which has a 2025 target date.

“TPP of course is the major focus of our economic pillar of the rebalance to this region,” he said, referring to the White House’s publically-stated goal of giving greater attention to the Asia-Pacific area.

“We certainly view TPP as our contribution to expanding trade and integrating the region,” he said, adding that, despite sluggish negotiations and frustrating snags, the TPP discussions have made “very significant progress”, but he refused to be drawn on a timetable for completing the process.

11/18/2014