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Puerto Rico gov pitching biomedical production to White House officials

By on August 6, 2020

(Screen capture of https://www.ddec.pr.gov/)

SAN JUAN – The administration of Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced said Thursday that she had invited Rear Adm. Peter J. Brown, White House Special Representative to Puerto Rico, as well as representatives from the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy and the U.S International Development Finance Corporation, and other federal officials to visit Puerto Rico to show its pharmaceutical and medical device industry “in an effort to position the island as a means to reduce the U.S. dependence” on foreign supply chains.

Two delegations will be traveling to Puerto Rico to assess the status of recovery efforts.

Brown, will lead the first, scheduled for Aug. 17-21, according to Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón’s (R-PR) office, which said he will be accompanied by representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Additionally, the delegation will meet with Vázquez, González Colón and federal and state agency officials to discuss health and environmental issues, including touring various development projects such as Lufthansa Technik, Copan Industries, Honeywell, Pratt & Whitney (Raytheon Technologies Corporation) in Aguadilla.

“This visit will provide an opportunity to emphasize Puerto Rico’s role as a key element in reestablishing U.S. biomedical production in our Nation’s economy,” reads the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration’s (PRFAA) press release.

Puerto Rico is the largest exporter of medical and pharmaceutical equipment in the United States, exporting more than $53 billion in biopharmaceuticals in the past year, the administration stressed.

“Puerto Rico is home to 49 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved plans representing 12 of the top worldwide pharmaceutical companies that manufacture medical products on the island,” the release reads.

“It is worth noting that 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. 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,” Vázquez said.

The administration noted that the industry employs more than 21,000 “educated employees, and labor costs on the island are 20-to-35% lower than on the mainland. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Transportation granted an order for Expanded Cargo and Passenger Flexibility at Puerto Rican International Airports that positions the island as a U.S. air cargo hub in the Caribbean. Puerto Rico is well positioned to aid the United States’ in reducing its dependence on the foreign supply chain.”

Saying that as 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,” Vázquez added that “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. We will continue collaborating with the White House, this Administration, and stakeholders as we continue exploring opportunities for the island’s development,” based on the premise that the 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 pandemic and epidemics.”

The second visit of federal officials is scheduled for Aug. 24-26, and will be led by the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Jim Carroll, who will also be joined by Brown.

González-Colón and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) secured language that required ONDCP to update their Caribbean Border Counternarcotic Strategy, which was last published in 2015, in the report that accompanied the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2020.

“In Puerto Rico, we have the infrastructure as well as the highly skilled work force to immediately increase our pharmaceutical manufacturing production. We also have research centers which constantly contribute advancements to that industry. Rear Admiral Brown’s visit will provide us the opportunity to show the federal entities which make the decisions regarding these matters that we are ready to do our part to secure the national drug supply chain,” González Colón said in the release issued by her office.

The PRFAA quoted several officials.

Brown was quoted as saying: Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced 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. We are meeting with textile companies, the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, and visiting key environmental sites.”

The Special Advisor of the White House and Department of Energy, Juan Caro, said: “The 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.”

PRFAA Executive Director Jennifer M. Storipan ended the release by commenting: “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. We must explore options to grow, develop, and inject our island’s economy with every opportunity and resource available.”

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