New USTR Set to Play Critical Role in Growing U.S. Economy

USTR Michael Froman Poised to Assist in Pro-Innovation Trade Policy

05.02.13 | By Chip Davis

PhRMA would like to congratulate Michael Froman, who today was nominated by President Obama to be the new United States Trade Representative. This position is critically-important as our nation strives to improve its standing in the global marketplace and create new, high-paying jobs that will propel our economy in the 21st Century. His extensive experience working on important economic issues will certainly benefit our nation as we look toward a trade policy that will build a foundation for future prosperity. The biopharmaceutical sector and the 4 million American jobs its supports will look to him to play a leading role to ensure we can continue to develop new life-saving medicines that the world’s patients are depending upon.

This year promises to be an active one for global trade, as nations are jostling to complete trade agreements that increase their own competitive advantages. As new trade pacts are negotiated among countries around the world, the U.S. must ensure that any agreement prioritizes growth and jobs. Moreover, a proliferation of trade barriers are being enacted across the globe by countries like India that are seeking advantages for their domestic industries at the expense of foreign manufacturers. For instance, India’s demands that foreign firms manufacture products locally have already begun to affect the technology, energy, and biopharmaceutical sectors of our economy, and must be rectified.

Another important immediate concern is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which would link the U.S. to some of the most important Asia-Pacific markets. And with Japan’s entry, the TPP now encompasses over 40% of global GDP, so it’s even more critical we get it right. Each new trade agreement unlocks new markets and consumers for American-made goods. However, not all the countries participating in the TPP negotiations have the same rigorous standards as the U.S. on a number of issues, including intellectual property (IP). To help protect our economic interests, steps need to be taken to ensure we create a level playing field among all our trading partners.

That means using current U.S. law as a floor, not a ceiling, in trade agreements. For example, 12 years of data protection for biologic drugs, which is U.S. law, enjoys widespread bipartisan support and should be seen as the minimum standard in the TPP.

IP-intensive industries, like the biopharmaceutical and technology sectors, directly employ 19 million Americans and accounted for 74 percent of U.S. exports in 2011. As a result, we must ensure the TPP and any new trade deal includes provisions that protect one of our most important national assets. Unless we enact policies that encourage innovation and spur greater R&D investment, our most innovative industries will lose their competitive edge, resulting in fewer opportunities and fewer jobs for American workers.

Along with TPP and the growing India threat, there are several other issues the incoming USTR will have to face starting from day one. Among them are Canada’s position on the Watch List and their poor record on intellectual property, which could have negative consequences for all American innovative industries. How these issues are addressed will have a direct effect on exports and jobs here at home, as the world will be watching to see how America’s trade representative settles into his new role.

We look forward to working with Mr. Froman on these and many other issues to ensure the U.S. biopharmaceutical sector is poised to remain the world’s leader far into the future, developing new life-saving medicines for patients that address global health challenges while helping to drive growth here at home. 

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