Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General Suresh Kumar
U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service
Remarks at the 10th France-USA AGIPHARM Conference
Friday, June 11, 2010
As prepared for delivery
Thank you, Jean-Luc, for that very kind introduction. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to join you today to mark the 10th Anniversary of the France-USA AGIPHARM Conference. Agipharm is a quintessential example of the effective use of public-private partnerships, and your leadership in this sector has helped to facilitate a transatlantic spirit of cooperation that has fostered innovation in both of our pharmaceutical industries.
I am honored to be with so many distinguished officials from the French Government and leaders in the pharmaceutical industry to share a few thoughts about the Obama Administration’s commitment to our transatlantic economic and trade partnership in the health care sector.
Before President Obama appointed me as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, I spent two decades in the health care industry, running consumer health care businesses all over the world. I understand both the opportunities and challenges that come with engaging in international business, as well as the critical importance of trade relationships to the success of the global healthcare industry.
This is an exciting time for the healthcare sector, and this is particularly true in the United States. Our newly enacted health care reform legislation will make health care more affordable for many Americans and provide 32 million Americans with health care who do not receive it today. In fact, under the plan, 95% of all Americans will be insured.
Above and beyond the health care reform legislation, President Obama has been deeply engaged in the health care industry:
- In one of his first official acts, the President signed into law the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides the support, options, and incentives for states to provide coverage for an additional four million children by FY 2013 who are currently uninsured.
- Second, our paper-based medical records system is prone to error, time-consuming, costly, and wasteful. With rigorous privacy standards in place to protect sensitive medical record, the Obama Administration will embark on an effort to computerize all Americans’ health records in five years. This effort will help prevent medical errors, improve health care quality, and is a necessary step in modernizing the American health care system and reducing health care costs.
- Third, to help physicians get the information they need to provide the highest quality care for patients, the Recovery Act of 2009 devotes $1.1 billion to reviewing evidence on competing medical interventions and new head-to-head trials. The information from this research will improve the performance of the U.S. health care system.
- Fourth, the President has devoted an unprecedented $1 billion for prevention and wellness interventions in the Recovery Act. This will dramatically expand community-based interventions proven to reduce chronic diseases.
At the same time, the Obama Administration is working to improve our domestic health care system, American health care companies have been providing global leadership, as America is the world’s largest supplier of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. France is the third biggest pharmaceutical market after the U.S. and Japan, and on a per capita basis, the 30 billion Euro market is bigger than that of Germany. It is part of my job to help U.S. companies in the healthcare industry stay innovative by ensuring they remain connected and engaged in the French market.
Our foundation of innovation in the pharmaceutical industry straddles public, private, and academic institutions, like Harvard Medical School, the National Institutes of Health, and several of the companies that are represented here today.
The changing global economy, and the importance of our trade relationships to the U.S. economy, is exactly why President Obama created the National Export Initiative (NEI). The NEI is an unprecedented, comprehensive strategy aimed at doubling U.S. exports over five years, while creating millions of jobs, both at home and abroad. The NEI leverages the resources of all the departments and agencies of the U.S. Government that support trade to better assist American businesses that want to sell their goods and services abroad.
In my role with the U.S. Department of Commerce, I lead a team of over 1,500 trade professionals in 109 domestic U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEACs) and in 126 commercial offices located in our embassies and consulates in almost 80 countries. Our offices serve as one-stop shops for U.S. exporters, and they provide a comprehensive toolkit of services – from market research to trade counseling and from business matchmaking to trade advocacy.
In particular, Europe will remain a focus of our trade agenda, as the transatlantic economic partnership is the most significant in the world. Our joint Gross Domestic Product of $32 trillion is slightly over half of global GDP. Investment flows are also huge, and in 2008, Europe invested more in the state of California than in all of China. Together we generate trade and investment flows of around $2.7 billion a day, providing millions of people with good jobs and secure incomes.
Two-thirds of U.S. research and development investments, outside of the U.S., are in Europe. The competitive advantage in pharmaceuticals comes from this transatlantic innovation.
The U.S. Government is engaging with the European Union to highlight the value of the research-based pharmaceutical industry for Europe’s economy and to ensure that regulatory divergences do not negatively impact the business environment for the R&D-based pharmaceutical industry. Specifically, The United States is following with interest the European legislative process for the pharmceutical package on combating counterfeiting and on steps to increase the availability of pharmaceutical product information to consumers.
The U.S. and the EU have used the Transatlantic Economic Council as an effective instrument for breaking down barriers to transatlantic trade and investment. Specifically, on regulatory cooperation in medicinal products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Commission have agreed to discuss specific industry administrative simplification proposals that could reduce burdens and lead to innovation in medicines and better access to patients.
We have developed a U.S.-EU roadmap to reduce administrative burdens and transaction costs for the appoval of medicinal products and have been implementing projects on administrative simplification, pilot joint inspections, and personnel exchanges.
Given the impact of the global financial crisis on our economies, the Innovation agenda gives the Transatlantic Economic Council a new and more strategic direction. The U.S. and the EU have recently launched an Innovation Action Partnership in order to share best practices and to promote innovation on both sides of the Atlantic to learn from our respective systems and ensure we avoid unnecessary trade barriers. In our common fight against disease, it is critical to foster innovation by protecting intellectual property, and we are delighted that France takes a leadership role in this area.
Furthermore, we both understand the importance of promoting heath care tecnologies that can lead to globally scalable solutions that will improve patient safety, efficiency of healthcare systems and ultimately lead to job growth.
Therefore, the U.S. and the EU are also working to develop common e-health and other health care technology approaches that will lead toward transatlantic interoperability of health records through best practices in common certification and testing methodologies of records, standards on patient summary records and e-prescriptions, telemedicine, privacy enhancing technologies to improve compliance and data protection, development of technical standards, and workforce development and training.
This strong relationship between the U.S. and Europe in the pharmaceutical industry clearly allows for extensive collaboration in major areas of mutual concerns. We need to ensure respect for innovation, better define and prevent counterfeiting, and collaborate to foster an environment that supports the clinical trials both private companies and government research organizations conduct to bring new pharmaceutical products to market. Respect for innovation, and setting fair prices through the world, will enable a balanced sharing of the costs of research.
Ultimately, the long-standing spirit of cooperation between the U.S. and European health care industries, along with cooperative research and innovation on both sides of the Atlantic, will ensure that continually better care is available to all people at a manageable cost.
Thank you for having me with you today.
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