Good Day BIO: What USTR said about Mexico, EU, and more
April 1, 2022
It’s April Fool’s Day—but Mexico’s treatment of biotech is no joke. We have a recap of this week’s hearings on the administration’s trade agenda, which covered Mexico, the EU, and more. Plus, BIO’s Phyllis Arthur spoke at a POLITICO summit on the many legacies of COVID…
The only newsletter at the intersection of biotech, politics, and policy
April 1, 2022
It’s April Fool’s Day—but Mexico’s treatment of biotech is no joke. We have a recap of this week’s hearings on the administration’s trade agenda, which covered Mexico, the EU, and more. Plus, BIO’s Phyllis Arthur spoke at a POLITICO summit on the many legacies of COVID. (757 words, 3 minutes, 47 seconds)
Congressional trade hearings: Mexico, Europe, and the need for ag negotiators
What’s happening? Mexico continues to “delay approval of biotech crops,” noted Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), and we’re still “experiencing issues with…Mexico living up to their side of this agreement on issues such as ag biotech, sanitary, and phytosanitary standards,” explained Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI)—catch up here.
“Mexico is blatantly violating the commitments made under USMCA regarding the treatment of biotech products,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to Ambassador Tai. “What is your strategy?”
“We are looking at all of our tools under the USMCA and thinking through our strategy,” she responded.
“Biotechnology has enormous potential to help us increase productivity while farmers address the climate crisis,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). “What is your strategy to engage with Mexico and encourage them to implement transparent, science-based approval processes for ag biotechnology, that they already agreed to?”
USTR is working with USDA to pursue a strategy of “cooperation and consultation with our counterparts in Mexico,” responded Ambassador Tai. “We are reassessing where we are and the kind of tools that we need to bring to bear,” and looking at next steps with all partners.
POLITICO Pro’s Morning Agriculture reported Amb. Tai could be hinting “about beginning dispute settlement proceedings against Mexico if negotiated agreements can not be reached on biotech disputes.”
Reminder: Last summer Dr. Michelle called on “USTR to begin taking enforcement action on Mexico’s treatment of agriculture biotechnology.” in her testimony to the Senate Finance Committee.
Where is the ag negotiator?
Reps. Adrian Smith (R-NE), Jason Smith (R-MO), Jodey Arrington (R-TX), and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) along with Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Thune (R-SD), and Michael Bennet (D-CO) all expressed the importance of an ag negotiator to address market access abroad—specifically the Chief Agriculture Negotiator at USTR and Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs at USDA.
The war in Ukraine is leading to a food crisis—which we’ve reported on extensively. Sen. Grassley asked Ambassador Tai, “What engagement has your agency had with the EU... and will your agency engage with the EU moving forward to enable science-based regulations for biotechnology so farmers in our country and around the world can use biotech to increase production?”
“We are continually engaging with our EU counterparts,” she said. This has always been a challenging issue, but she believes “the current disruptions to trade…provide us new opportunities and windows for collaboration with the EU.”
What should it include? Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), who led a letter to the Biden administration, told Ambassador Tai, It’s important the framework prioritizes agriculture and “sets high standards and reduces non-tariff barriers and ensures sanitary phytosanitary measures are based on sound science."
‘We have never vaccinated the entire adult population in America before’
“Obviously, everyone would say mRNA is a game changer,” said Phyllis Arthur, BIO’s VP of Infectious Disease & Emerging Science. We also made “huge strides in some of the other platform technologies such as monoclonal antibodies,” which are scalable, flexible, and pivoted quickly for variants.
Why they matter: “The combination of these powerful biologics actually could allow us to be much quicker in response and coupled with better surveillance, could maybe even help us not have a pandemic,” she added.
Watch the highlight reel:
We learned key lessons about messaging: “There were a whole lot of people standing in line for the first set of COVID vaccines,” she said. “Then we hit that plateau of the people who were trying to understand the data…What really drove communities to get vaccinated was actually activation by authorities at the community level. The CDC, industry, and others all really tried to support what were respected and trusted messengers as close to the patients as you could get.”
“We have never vaccinated the entire adult population in America before,” concluded Arthur. “How can we leverage that into a new rate and a new plateau higher for flu and shingles and pneumococcal and all the things that individuals actually need for their own wellness? We need to make it about your wellness and your health security personally.”
We’re grateful for BIO members who are developing breakthroughs to fight disease and save the planet, and especially the tireless advocates who work on behalf of patients, all year long.
Biotech makes the impossible possible—thanks to the doctors, scientists, investors, and patient advocates behind the breakthroughs.