U.S.-E.U. pact could redefine global trade standards

Because the nature of world trade is changing, our leaders must look to unlock new foreign markets for American exports. While the Trans-Pacific Partnership is currently being negotiated with strategically important Asia-Pacific nations, we can’t forget about the European Union, with whom we already share the world’s largest trading relationship.

Recently, the United States and the EU have embarked on an ambitious new venture with the potential to reshape our relationship and redefine the nature of global commerce. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) aims to eliminate many remaining barriers to trade between America and the EU, and if structured properly will help to spur a new wave of economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic.

Today, the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade is holding a hearing on the TTIP. Congress is right to be engaged this early in the process, as our trade deficit with the EU ballooned by nearly 16 percent last year to over $115 billion. Increasing access for U.S. exports across all sectors of our economy must be a major priority.  And there’s no reason to think we can’t be successful: The United States and the nations that comprise the European Union share many common bonds and have a long, rich history of economic and diplomatic cooperation. With the TTIP, we have a unique opportunity to craft a trade agreement that reflects our shared values and establishes a framework that establishes new norms for international trade.

For the biopharmaceutical industry, which employs over 800,000 Americans, that framework must include provisions that protect the cycle of innovation, allowing us to continue pioneering medical advancements for the world’s patients. Given the fact that the United States and the EU account for nearly 60 percent of all the medicines currently in development throughout the world, it’s in both our long-term interests to get it right. Establishing clarity and certainty, from regulatory processes to patents, will encourage cross-border competition and cooperation, and allow American and European drug researchers to bring lifesaving medicines to market faster and more efficiently.

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In addition to the promise of renewed economic prosperity, the TTIP also has the potential to serve a different yet equally important purpose. Over the last few years, there have been increasing attacks on the global innovation ecosystem that threaten to stifle the pipeline of new drug development. There are several countries (for instance, India and Canada) that have been aggressively scaling back or denying intellectual property protections for biopharmaceutical medicines in order to prop up their own domestic industries. By securing strong and enforceable provisions in the TTIP, we can send a strong message and establish a global policy of rewarding risk takers and the investments needed to develop new innovative products.

The TTIP is a great concept on many levels that will help spark economic and job growth, but only if we pay attention to the details. Great care must be taken to ensure America is allowed to compete on level footing with our European partners. For the U.S. innovators who will drive growth in the 21st century, the TTIP must recognize and protect the significant contributions our industries make to the global economy.  And if one of the goals of the TTIP is to establish a model for future trade agreements, current U.S. law should certainly form the baseline for negotiations.

As Congress considers Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation that will allow the President to fast-track trade deals, these considerations must factor into their decision making or the United States risks being left behind in the global marketplace. Only by securing the strongest agreement possible can we reap the full potential of the TTIP and future free trade agreements.

Castellani is president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.