High-ranking federal officials to see island’s biopharma potential firsthand
By John McPhaul
Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced has invited Rear Admiral Peter J. Brown, the White House special representative to Puerto Rico, as well as representatives from both the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy and the U.S International Development Finance Corp., along with other federal officials, to visit Puerto Rico for an opportunity to see for themselves Puerto Rico’s potential role as a key element in re-establishing domestic biomedical production in the U.S. economy.
Currently, Puerto Rico is the largest exporter of medical and pharmaceutical equipment in the United States, exporting over $53 billion in biopharmaceuticals within the past year. Puerto Rico is home to 49 U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved plans representing 12 of the top worldwide pharmaceutical companies that manufacture medical products on the island.
Recently Washington has been abuzz about the possibility of relocating pharmaceutical production from China to Latin America.
“It is worth noting that we will discuss preparedness and readiness for the 2020 hurricane season, ongoing federal projects, and the revitalization of the island. However, this trip will focus on the opportunity for Puerto Rico to re-insert itself within the United States’ national security system by means of strengthening the pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing market,” Vázquez said earlier this week. “As Puerto Rico continues to recover, it is incumbent upon me to aid in continuing the development of our economy and take advantage of our thriving industries.”
The pharmaceutical industry employs more than 21,000 educated employees, and labor costs on the island are 20-to-35 percent lower than on the mainland. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Transportation has granted an order for expanded cargo and passenger flexibility at Puerto Rico’s international airports, which position the island as a U.S. air cargo hub in the Caribbean.
“As the governor of Puerto Rico, my priority is to provide the best opportunities for our island and our people. We invited these White House officials and stakeholders to showcase our pharmaceutical and medical device industry in an effort to position the island as a means to reduce the U.S. dependence on a foreign supply chain,” the governor said. “We have seen how dangerous it is to depend on a foreign supply chain, especially during this pandemic. Our island is well positioned to contribute to the development of a more robust U.S. medical supply chain, assuring our nation is protected from future pandemics and epidemics.”
Brown noted that Vázquez “and Congresswoman Jenniffer González Colón are working closely with the Trump Administration to bring critical jobs back to Puerto Rico.”
“I look forward to visiting key facilities with the federal family and finding new ways to stimulate and strengthen Puerto Rico’s industrial sector,” he said. “We are meeting with textile companies, the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, and visiting key environmental sites.”
Juan Caro, a special adviser to the White House and the U.S. Department of Energy, said “[t]he Trump Administration is working hard with the government of Puerto Rico to ensure that Puerto Rico’s economy has the necessary infrastructure for success: reliable baseload power, clean water, clean air, access to transportation facilities, and a strong workforce.”
González Colón, Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in Washington, thanked Brown “for his commitment to the people of Puerto Rico.”
“This visit is a follow up from previous trips highlighting the commitment of the federal government to advancing our work, in collaboration with local officials and stakeholders, toward economic development and reconstruction,” she said.
Vázquez added that “[a]s a leader in the pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing market, now more than ever, during these trying times amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that federal officials experience firsthand the potential Puerto Rico has to offer.”
“Puerto Rico has come so far in the past year, and we are proud of our people’s spirit to overcome challenges and particularly this industry’s resiliency,” the governor said. “We will continue collaborating with the White House, this Administration, and stakeholders as we continue exploring opportunities for the island’s development.”
Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration Executive Director Jennifer M. Storipan reiterated in a press release that Puerto Rico is well positioned to aid the United States in reducing its dependence on the foreign supply chain.
“It is essential that our island is well positioned to face and work with the damages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as we move forward with our recovery,” she said. “We must explore options to grow, develop, and inject our island’s economy with every opportunity and resource available.”